Advancing American Art: Painting, Politics, and Cultural Confrontation at Mid-century (Paperback)

by Maltby Sykes, Leon F. Litwack, Taylor D. Littleton

Format: Paperback 176 pages

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A representative collection of avant-garde American paintings from the 1930s and '40s. Conceived and funded by the State Department in 1946 as part of a new emphasis in international diplomacy, the exhibit of paintings called Advancing American Art was launched on what was enthusiastically projected as an extended goodwill tour of Europe and Latin America. But almost immediately the exhibit was attacked by conservative groups as "un-American" and "subversive" and its abstract paintings ridiculed in the national media, in Congress, and by no less a critic than President Truman. Following their recall by Secretary Marshall in 1947, the exhibit's paintings were quietly declared surplus property and sold under rather curious circumstances by the War Assets Administration. Most of the collection was acquired by a small number of public universities in what could be called the art bargain of the century, since works by such figures as Marin, O'Keefe, Shahn, Dove, Kuniyoshi, and Hartley were sold for $100 or less. The chronicle of this exhibit tells us something about America after the war, when the nation sought to reconcile its sacrificial experiences from the Depression and in World War II with its new role on the international scene. Defining the figures of confrontation that challenged America's tenuous self-conceptions at the time, this book captures a significant transitional moment in U.S. history while also serving as a catalog of the 38 masterpieces purchased by Auburn University.

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The University of Alabama Press


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