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Modern Art

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Rockwell Kent: Artists of Democracy (Rob Wagner's Script Magazine, 1942)

The U.S. had only been actively engaged in World War II for five months when the American artist Rockwell Kent (1882 1971) felt the impulse to write about the unique roll an artist must play when a democracy goes to war:

"The art of a democracy must be, like democracy itself, of and by and for the people. It must and will reflect the public mood and public interest...Awareness of America, of its infinitely varied beauties and of its sometimes sordid ugliness; awareness of the life of America, of its fulfillments and its failures; awareness, if you like, of God, the landscape architect supreme - and political failure: of the promise of America and of its problems, art has been, or has aimed to be, a revelation. It is for the right to solve these problems our way that we are now at war."


The Industrial Visions of Paul R. Meltsner (Art Digest, 1936)

The artist Paul R. Meltsner (1905 - 1966) was one of many WPA artists given to depicting sweaty, mal-nourished proletarians laboring in the fore-ground of smoke-plagued, industrial cityscapes and his work can be found today in the vaults of every major American museum. This is a 1936 art review covering his one-man show at the Midtown Galleries in New York:

"Meltsner builds his pictures everyday scenes of industrial life, dedicating them to labor and the machine...He gets broad vitality in his forms and force in his compositions, relieving at the same time the usual drabness of such scenes by a tonic of color."

Another 1936 article about Paul Meltsner can be read here.


Government Funding for the Arts Praised (Direction, 1938)

An editorial by the artist Philip Evergood (1901 - 1973) who believed that the Federal Arts Project of the Thirties had not simply made the lives of artists a little better but has also created a far better society:

"The Federal Arts Project has pointed the way to an American Culture. It has set a weight in motion, it has let loose a force that has affected hundreds of thousands of lives. It has made murals depicting the history of our country and the lives of our people have been placed on the walls of our schools, hospitals, libraries and public buildings making them of greater beauty and of greater community interest - monuments and small sculpture have been added in equal numbers, easel paintings and prints now hang in thousands on the walls of public buildings..."

Evergood likened this government funding to the Renaissance, when the church served as the artist's patron and culture flourished.

Click here if you would like to read a 1939 article about the closing of the Federal arts funding program.
Click here to read a 1942 article by Rockwell Kent on the proper roll of American artists during wartime.


Grant Wood: Iowa as Muse (Art Digest, 1936)

An art review of the American painter, Grant Wood (1891 1942), and his efforts to illustrate a 1935 children's book titled Farm on the Hill.

Wood, a reigning member of the Regionalism School in American art, had come into the public eye some six years earlier with the creation of his painting, "American Gothic, is quoted in this article concerning his creative process and the importance his vision of Iowa plays while painting:

"...Mr Wood seceded from the neo-meditationists of Paris because when he began to meditate he realized that 'all the really good ideas I'd ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.'"

Click here to read a 1942 article by Rockwell Kent on the proper roll of American artists during wartime.


Artist Paul Cadmus (Art Digest, 1937)

A late Thirties art review of Paul Cadmus (1906 - 1999), one of the finest and most scandalous artists of the W.P.A.:

"Paul Cadmus was thrust into national prominence at the age of 26 when his canvas, 'The Fleets In', painted for PWAP in 1933, stirred up a storm of protest. Since then controversies have dogged his art but with them has come recognition...Like the contemporary writers Thomas Wolfe and Aldous Huxley the reaction of Cadmus against present day 'civilization' is one of repulsion tinged with hatred. This note of protest seems to be the battle cry of the younger generation of artists and writers. Mrs Overdressed Middle class to be viewed by the public..."


20th Century Artists Rediscover Woodcut Printing (Art Digest, 1936)

An art review concerning a 1936 Brooklyn Museum exhibit of woodcut prints by avant-garde German, Russian and French artists. The reviewer details how the medium was rediscovered.

"Before Franz Marc (1880 1916) was killed in the war he strengthened woodcut design in his departure from pretty and representational decoration toward more rugged abstraction...Almost all of these German, Russian and Frenchmen have concentrated their attention on human life. There is no pretty landscape, no picturesque architectural rendering, no still life, no sporting print. Froma a few prints the actual human form has been abstracted. One of these by Wassily Kandinsky 'looks like a diagram of the contents of a madman's waste basket'. The rest of the prints are chiefly tragic, mostly pitiful, occasionally derisive comments on the failure of man as an animal."


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