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The Great American Thing:
Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935

Tacoma Art Museum
Tacoma WA Feb 4-May 21, 2006

Charles Demuth - Lancaster
Charles Demuth, Lancaster (1921), tempera and pencil on paper board [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Feb 4-May 21]

“The history of New York as an art capital starts here”, wrote Wanda M. Corn, author of The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935. Corn, the co-curator of the exhibit by the same name, refers to the often-overlooked age of American ingenuity in the arts between World Wars. This important exhibition, organized in conjunction with the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, draws on over 130 works from major national collections.

In the early part of the 20th century, there was a quest for new art, writing and music that would be completely American. Foremost in the promotion of “The Great American art” was photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Through his early Manhattan galleries, Stieglitz sponsored his own work; that of his wife, Georgia O’Keefe; and work by artists Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Paul Strand and Charles Demuth. The avant-garde artists in this exhibit also include Max Weber, Edward Weston, Margaret Bourke-White, Romare Bearden and transcontinental artists Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and George Grosz.

Lois Mailou Jones - The Ascent of Ethiopia
Lois Mailou Jones, The Ascent of Ethiopia, (1932), oil on canvas [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Feb 4-May 21]

They were a diverse group inspired by the new European movements towards abstraction, Cubism and Dadaism. Modern subject matter – skyscrapers, suspension bridges, consumer products and jazz often became their images. Together they sought to render a national view of modernism that was distinct from styles in rival Paris. Their progressive treatment of architecture, engineering, advertising and music were soon romanticized and revered by their European counterparts.


Allyn Cantor

Berenice Abbott, Murray Hill Hotel: Spiral, 112 Park Ave, Manhatten, (1935), gelatin silver print [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Feb 4-May 21]

Berenice Abbott - Murray Hill Hotel: Spiral, 112 Park Ave, Manhatten
Georgia O’Keeffe - Oak Leaves, Pink and Gray

Georgia O’Keeffe, Oak Leaves, Pink and Gray, (1929), oil on canvas [Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA, Feb 4-May 21]

 Wed, Feb 1, 2006