A chronology of cultural interactions between Europe and the United States tends to be a narrative about identity formation. It concerns the transfer of the American artist from a pilgrim to the shrines of European achievement to an active participant in redefining the boundaries of art and literature.
European modernism was the spontaneous expression of gifted but rebellious youngsters. It was rooted in urban settings and the post-war influx of young American writers fleeing the puritanical spirit at home added energy to the avant-garde. The presence of African-American performers and musicians boosted the raucous mood amongst the cosmopolitan mix of artists in Paris and Berlin.
Modernism had started with joyful artistic irreverence, it suffered in the trenches and, under the repression of the 1930s, was forced to seek asylum in New York. As war in Europe became inevitable, most cultural exiles returned to America, bringing with them a bounty of experience to fructify the cultural landscape at home (the term “lost generation” is a misnomer).
Such an account however obscures the fact that young and curious visitors to the United States – unlike their elders who resented the prospect of “Americanization” – returned home inspired by what they had experienced whilst questioning Europe’s haughty pretension of cultural superiority. [Read more…] about Architect Adolf Loos and the American Legacy in Vienna