Retrospective: What’s American Art? A Perspective from 1939

one hundred YEARS AGO

The story of the stolen Van Dyck seems to be an ingenious hoax. A sure artwork supplier had an image which he supposed was by Van Dyck, and upon which he provisionally set the worth at £10,000. He had submitted the canvas to a well known “professional,” pending whose verdict the supplier desired to have public consideration strongly targeted upon the portray. The two males who knowledgeable the Berchem [Antwerp, Belgium] police of the alleged theft of the masterpiece throughout a motor-automotive journey have been confederates of the vendor, who has now confessed that he concocted the hoax within the hope of enhancing the worth of the supposed Van Dyck at a time when enterprise was turning into very slack.

—“Stolen Van Dyck,” May sixteen, 1914

seventy five YEARS AGO


William Gropper, The Last Cow, pre-1939.


If the “American Art Today” exhibition on the New York World’s Fair is admittedly the voice of our modern plastic expression, the viewers might sense that it suffers from an ailment of the larynx. Evidence of high quality is there, however there are dangerous breaks and lengthy durations of monotone between intervals of brilliance. . . .

But it have to be remembered that the intention is to not present one of the best, however probably the most attribute. The 5 hundred and fifty work, 2 hundred and fifty sculptures, and 4 hundred works of graphic artwork have been chosen on a regional foundation by native juries of artists chosen to characterize all tastes. Since the purpose was towards geographical in addition to inventive catholicism, the competitors in some areas was a lot keener than in others, and works of top of the range have been typically stored out to make room for much less fascinating representations of different tastes or locales. . . . The sponsors desired, by democratic means, to assemble an exhibition which might reveal the “common” of American artwork.

—“D.S. Art on the Fair: Democratic Selection & Standardized Result,” by Doris Brian, May S, 1939



John Everett Millais, L’Enfant du Regiment (The Random Shot), 1854–fifty five, oil on paper, laid on canvas, mounted on board.


The Pre-Raphaelites’ fame has all the time been unstable. Within two years of the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, the photographs exhibited by Millais, Hunt and Rossetti have been attracting virtually unanimous abuse. Although Ruskin quickly turned the motion’s eloquent defender, crucial obtuseness by no means grew into common adulation and, at this time, Pre-Raphaelitism stands once more in usually low reputation. The Pre-Raphaelites by no means fared properly in America: an exhibition despatched to New York in 1857 had little influence, and since then the American public has had solely uncommon alternatives to see their footage.

—“Radical romantics,” by Allen P. Staley, May 1964



Hewitt M T (Sergeant), No. H Army Film & Photographic Unit, Germany Under Allied Occupation.


“I absolutely perceive the individuals’s impatience, however every particular person merchandise needs to be handled. While the precise financial worth of the issues shouldn’t be monumental, the sentimental worth for these individuals could be very nice,” [Judge Reimar] Gradischnik says. “These are individuals who misplaced every part, and in some situations the paintings might have belonged to a mum or dad and could be the solely factor left. In a method, it’s individuals seeing a reference to their previous. How do you set a worth on that?”

—”Vienna: Complexity, Contradictions,” by Andrew Decker in New York, with Ferdinand Protzman in Vienna, May 1989

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