One of the top-grossing American films of 1940 was the western Santa Fe Trail, the seventh Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland collaboration. The story concerns John Brown’s campaign against slavery just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Starting out on an acting career, young Ronald Reagan appeared in the story line as George Armstrong Custer. [Read more…] about Wilhelm Grosz: The Red Sails of Forced Migration
As well as carrying coal, the train offered space for six hundred passengers, most of them traveling in wagons, but some distinguished guests were allocated a seat in a specially designed carriage called The Experiment. [Read more…] about Railroads, The Spuyten Duyvil Disaster & Faustian Legend
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
Manhattan artist George Deem is remembered for referencing the history of painting by re-imagining Old Masters in a contemporary context. He re-configured iconic pictorial images through visual ploys such as repetition and erasure, or through the addition of components of contemporary life and art. [Read more…] about George Deem, Bulldozers and Stalinist Suppression
The invention of the wheel has been celebrated as a hallmark of man’s drive for innovation. By the 1890s, Europe and America were obsessed with the bicycle. The new two-wheel technology had a profound effect on social interactions. It supplied the pedal power to freedom for (mainly white) women and created an opportunity for one of the first black sporting heroes.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, bicycle racing as a sporting event reached feverish popularity both amongst the public and within artistic circles. In the early twentieth century racing developed as a distinct facet of modernity. The bicycle was the pre-eminent vehicle of the avant-garde. [Read more…] about The Black Cyclone & The Unbearable Whiteness of Cycling
One of the effects of colonial expansion in the nineteenth century was that museums stopped being exclusively Euro-centered. The mapping of the annexed world was a responsibility of colonial governments which employed scholars to carry out the tasks of collecting and recording. Curators changed their collecting focus.
Works of art from Africa and Pacific Oceania that were looted, stolen or cheaply acquired without concern about provenance, found their way from British, French, Dutch, and Belgian colonial territories to the museums and curiosity shops of Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Brussels. [Read more…] about The Cake Walk, Prohibition & John Philip Sousa: Ragtime Wild Paris
The history of the modern private press can be said to have started in early 1891 with William Morris’s foundation of the Kelmscott Press at 16 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, and the publication of his own work The Story of the Glittering Plain.
There had been forerunners of course. Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill Press, established in June 1757, set a precedent by producing splendid books, pamphlets, and ephemera, but it was Morris who succeeded in establishing a cost-effective press for high quality publications. His initiative gave birth to a host of similar undertakings. He initiated the Private Press Movement which was closely associated with the rise of modernist ideas. Morris also had a remarkable following in New York. [Read more…] about Nancy Cunard, Modernism and the Private Press Movement
Edward Livingston Trudeau was born in 1848 in New York City to a family of physicians. During his late teens, his elder brother James contracted tuberculosis (TB) and Edward nursed him until his death three months later. At twenty, he enrolled in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia College (now Columbia University), completing his medical training in 1871. Two years later, he was diagnosed with TB too.
Following current climate-therapeutic theories that promoted the relocation of patients to regions with atmospheric conditions favorable to recuperation, he moved to the Adirondack Mountains. Seeking as much open air as he possible could, almost continuously living outside, he subsequently regained his health. In 1876 he settled in Saranac Lake and established a small medical practice. It was the beginning of a remarkable career and a new chapter in American medical history. [Read more…] about Modernist Architecture, Literature, and the Adirondack Cottage Sanatorium
The composer was a young man from Trenton, New Jersey. Among his supporters were Erik Satie, Darius Milhaud, and James Joyce. The recital broke up in a riot. To modernists in the audience such disturbances justified their artistic experimentation. [Read more…] about Carnage at Carnegie Hall
Elizabeth “Lee” Miller started her career in the fashion industry. Having been model and assistant to surrealist artist and photographer Emmanuel Radnitzky, better known as Man Ray, she had the drive and talent to pursue her own professional ambition. During the Second World War, she was one of five accredited female photo-journalists accompanying American troops.
In a turbulent life traumatic events in her youth and maturity took their toll and may have hampered the appreciation of her contribution. Full recognition of the artistic value of her work is long overdue. [Read more…] about Modernist Misogyny & Lady Penrose of Poughkeepsie