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ALEXANDER, Edward P., The Museum in America: Innovators and Pioneers, Walnut Creek (CA), Altamira Press, 1997.
“American Art and the Museum,” The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art, November 1940, 3-25.
BARR Jr., Alfred, “Painting and Sculpture in the United States,” Trois siècles d’art aux États-Unis; exposition organisée en collaboration avec le Museum of Modern Art, New-York. Musée du jeu de paume. Paris, mai-juillet, 1938, Paris, Éditions des musées nationaux, 1938.
---, “Report of the Director,” The Year’s Work: Annual Report to the Board of Trustees and the Corporation Members of the Museum of Modern Art, 1939-40, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1940.
BENAYADA, Kamila, L’opposition entre modernisme et régionalisme dans la peinture américaine dans les années 1920 et 1930: Thomas Hart Benton et Stuart Davis, PhD Diss., Paris, Université Paris Diderot - Paris 7, 2005.
BENAYADA, Kamila, “La distanciation dans l’œuvre régionaliste de Grant Wood comme moyen de mise en échec du nationalism,” Revue LISA, Vol. VII, n°2, 2009.
BENEDITE, Léonce, “L’École Américaine au Musée du Luxembourg,” Revue de l’art ancien et moderne, XXXVI, 1919a, 193-210.
---, Exposition d’artistes de l’école américaine, Paris, Frazier-Soye, imprimeur, 1919b.
CAHILL, Holger and Alfred BARR Jr., Art In America: A Complete Survey, New York, Reynal and Hitchcock, 1935.
COHEN-SOLAL, Annie, Painting American: The Rise of American Artists, Paris 1867 - New York 1948, New York, Knopf, 2001.
CORN, Wanda, The Great American Thing, Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2000.
DIZARD Jr., Wilson P., Inventing Public Diplomacy: The Story of the U.S. Information Agency, Boulder (CO), Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004.
DOSS, Erika, Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1995.
---, “American Moderns in the 1930s and 1940s: The Triumph of Diversity,” New Forms: The Avant-Garde Meets the American Scene 1934-1949: Selection from the University of Iowa Museum of Art, edited by Kathleen E Edwards, Iowa City (IA), University of Iowa Museum of Art, 2013.
GOODYEAR, A. Conger, “All Good Americans,” Parnassus, vol. 10, April 1938, 15-19.
---, The Museum of Modern Art: The First Ten Years, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1943.
GUILBAUT, Serge, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom and the Cold War, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1985.
HARPER STRATFORD, Linda, Artists into Frenchmen: Art and National Identity in France, 1945-1959, PhD diss., State University of New York, 2001.
JANSON, H.W., “The International Aspects of Regionalism,” College Art Journal, vol. 2, n°4, May 1943, 110-115.
JEWELL, E.A., Have we an American Art?, New York, Longmans, Green, 1939.
KALFATOVIC, Martin R, The New Deal Fine Arts Projects, A Bibliography, 1933-1992, Metuchen (NJ), Scarecrow Press, 1994.
KENNEDY, Elizabeth, MESLAY, Olivier and Lois Marie FINK, American Artists & the Louvre, Chicago, Terra Foundation for American Art, 2006.
LOVE, Richard H., Carl W. Peters: American Scene Painter from Rochester to Rockport, Rochester, University of Rochester Press, 1999.
LYNES, Russell, Good Old Modern: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Atheneum, 1973.
MARTER, Joan M., ed., The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art, Vols 1 to 5, New York, Oxford University Press, 2011.
MCCULLOUGH, David, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, New York, Simon and Schuster, 2011.
MILLER, Dorothy Canning, ed., Fourteen Americans, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1946.
MUSEE DU JEU DE PAUME, Trois siècles d’art aux États-Unis; exposition organisée en collaboration avec le Museum of Modern Art, New-York. Musée du jeu de paume. Paris, mai-juillet, 1938, Paris, Éditions des musées nationaux, 1938.
NINKOVICH, Frank, The Diplomacy of Ideas, US Foreign Policy and Cultural Relations, Cambridge (MA), Cambridge University Press, 1981.
O’CONNOR, Francis V., “The PWAP in New York,” Federal Support for the Visual Arts: the New Deal and Now, New York, New York Graphic Society Ltd, 1969.
ROTILY, Jocelyne, Artistes américains à Paris: 1914-1939 : des artistes en quête d’identité dans le contexte franco-américain d’une époque entre guerres et paix, PhD diss., Université de Paris 7, 1996.
---, “Politique des Musées du Luxembourg et du Jeu de Paume face a l’art américaine: histoire de deux grandes expositions dans le Paris de l’entre-deux-guerres,” Gazette des beaux-Arts, vol. CXXX, November 1997, 179-89
---, Artistes américains à Paris: 1914-1939: des artistes en quête d’identité dans le contexte franco-américain d’une époque entre guerres et paix, Paris, Harmattan, 1998.
SITTON, Robert, Lady in the Dark: Iris Barry and the Art of Film, New York, Columbia University Press, 2014.
WIESINGER, Veronique, “La politique d’acquisition de l’État français sous la Troisième République en matière d’art étranger contemporain: l’exemple américain (1870-1940),” Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art français, 1993, 263-99.
WOOD, Grant, “Revolt Against the City,” Twentieth-Century Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Stella Paul, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.
YOUNG, William H. and Nancy K. YOUNG, eds, The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia, Vols 1 and 2, Wesport (CT), Greenwood Press, 2007.
“Oral history interview with Margaret Scolari Barr concerning Alfred H. Barr, 1974 Feb. 22-May 13,” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. The interviewer was Paul Cummings.
Cf. Corn, 2000 and Doss, 1995. In a French context Benayada, 2005, has also addressed the ‘purported’ split between modernism and regionalism during this period from a sociological point of view. Rather than opposition, however, she finds both to be aesthetic constructs of intersecting aims; Cf. also Benayada, 2009.
Cf. Groseclose and Wierich, 2009 (especially contributions by Andrew Hemingway and Derrick Cartwright) and Lauren Kroiz, 2012, 184-6.
The catalogue is Musée du Jeu de Paume, 1938. The exhibition was partly funded by the Federal Arts Program of the Works Progress Administration.
The literature on art during this period is burgeoning but for an overview see the entries for “Federal Art Project” and “Regionalism” in Young and Young, 2007 and for “Regionalism” and “Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project” in Marter, 2011.
Issue of December 24, 1934, vol 24, n°26.
At the De Young Museum (San Francisco) and MoMA (New York) respectively. The Whitney and the Museum of Modern both had exhibition series that featured, on a rotating geographical basis, art from around the country, often complemented by WPA/FAP holdings. For a good reference source on exhibitions and their reception Cf. Kalfatovic, 1994.
Originally published as a pamphlet: Grant Wood, Revolt Against the City, Iowa City (IA), Clio Press, 1935.
Cf. the reference to Rivera, Orozco and others in the context of depression-era art project in the exhibition catalog as manifesting “an awareness of social, political and economic problems,” (Musée du Jeu de Paume, 1938, 30-31).
Janson’s article appeared after a Wood retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago that coincided with that year’s meeting of the College Art Association. His allegations of press “propaganda” alludes to the political dimensions of the regionalist project. Thomas Hart Benton’s ambitions were to “link his regionalist vision of modern art with the reform-oriented politics of his time,” explicitly saying that “Roosevelt’s early social moves […] found their aesthetic expression in Regionalism” which he also called an overwhelming Americanism, cf. Doss, 1995, 68. For the promotion of the regionalist aesthetic in public, no other instance is more representative than the article “U.S. Scene” published on December 24, 1934 issue of Time (cf. note 6 above) whose cover featured Thomas Hart Benton in a self-portrait.
On the history and the context of the exhibition cf. Rotily, 1996, 86-99 and 132-9. As Rotily notes, the exhibition was financed partly by the Propaganda Service of the French State (ibid., note 103).
Coffin had been responsible for the art exhibit of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo among other initiatives. For the organization of the 1919 exhibition, cf. the documents of the “Luxembourg committee” in William Anderson Coffin papers, 1886-1924, Series 5: Project File for the Exhibition of Works by American Artists at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, 1919-1920, Archives of American Art, Washington, DC. Cf. also http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/william-anderson-coffin-papers-7476/more.
The question whether America has a native art was thus posed abroad before the twentieth century, by critics like Georges Lafenestre writing about the art of the American exhibit of the 1889 Exposition Universelle (“one might think he is in the midst of a gallery of French art”) and John B Cauldwell, the curator of the American exhibit during the 1900 World’s Fair, who retorted that America did have a native art that could rival the European Schools; cf. the summary of the debates in a review of the 1919 exhibition (Bénédite, 1919a, 193-210), from which I draw below. For the presence of American art in earlier World’s Fairs, cf. Cohen-Solal, 2001 (especially Part I).
All of the works chosen were either oil paintings or sculptures, a further difference from the 1938 exhibition which incorporated popular art forms, folk art, industrial art, architecture and cinema.
Bénédite himself poses the usual question (“is there truly an American School?” ) and proceeds to preferentially cite examples of American artists of French descent, like John La Farge and Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Richard Emil Miller, Frederick Carl Frieseke and others were represented. For a representative work included in the exhibition, cf. http://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/collections/catalogue-des-oeuvres/notice.html?no_cache=1&S=&nnumid=02041.
A press release written by the American committee for “La France: An American Magazine,” noted that “the collection of pictures sent from the United States is very strong in landscape” and that “there are so many typical American subjects interpreted by the landscape painters that the collection is somewhat different from the assemblages of pictures usually seen in European exhibition galleries,” later conceding however that many are “in the style that is sometimes referred to as “Academic.” Cf. “An Exhibition of American Art at the Luxembourg Museum, Paris” [undated press release], William A. Coffin papers, Archives of American Art.
Rotily, who is the only published source on the 1919 and 1938 exhibitions, has mined the archives of the Louvre and her perspective is useful and complementary to the account I present below that relies on American archives (Museum of Modern Art, Archives of American Art). Cf. also her monograph (Rotily, 1998) as well as the references in Harper Stratford, 2001, 31-3.
I quote below from the petitions, minutes and letters in the Coffin papers, AAA. It is also notable that artists who had publicly allied themselves with Germany during the war had been excluded a priori.
See the resolution of protest of the committee for the American Exhibition contained in “Communication sent to the Ministre de l’Instruction et des Beaux Arts, January 9, 1920,” in William A Coffin papers, AAA, noting that the artists had been selected “by a unanimous vote of the committee.”
Cf. respectively Coffin’s October 10, 1919 letter to and the artists’ petition dated December 29, 1919, both in Coffin papers, AAA.
The French government actually acquired the latter, in addition to nine other paintings following the exhibition, a practice that was repeated in 1938.
Cf. Rotily, 1997, 179. Some of the pieces for the 1938 exhibition had already been pre-selected and exhibited as far back as 1933 in the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. On the history and the conception of the 1938 exhibition, cf. Goodyear, 1943, the first history of MoMA by Goodyear, the overall coordinator of the show who deemed it important enough to give it its own chapter (73-82). Cf. also Rotily, 1998, 149-80.
“Notable Exhibition of American Art now shown in Paris through Courtesy [sic] of French Government,” The Evening Post, New York, October 14, 1919. Ben Foster’s “October, Moonrise” (1917) occupies a quarter of the page of this review.
Zay points out that the hundreds of artworks brought over from the US had been shipped on the SS Lafayette named after the Franco-American general and patriot, in a “symbolic and moving gesture,” also mentioned by Jewell, 1939, 11-12 (cf. also MoMA press release n°38418-17 of April 20, 1938 and Goodyear, 1943, 77). By a remarkable coincidence, the art for the earlier exhibition of the “American School” in 1919 had also been shipped on the SS Lafayette after the initial steamship route was cancelled; cf. William A Coffin’s November 13, 1919 letter to Mrs W.W. Quinton in William Anderson Coffin papers, 1886-1924, Series 5: Project File for the Exhibition of Works by American Artists at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, 1919-1920, Archives of American Art, Washington, DC.
Most prominently initiated, after the War, by the United States Information Agency. A lot of these activities were covered by the US government-published journals Encounter (a Ford Foundation-CIA funded venture, nominally published by the Congress for Cultural Freedom) and Amerika (1944-1967); cf. Dizard, 2004, chapters 3 and 9. For a joint consideration of 1930s and Cold War cultural diplomacy, cf. Andrew Hemingway’s article in Groseclose and Wierich, 2009. Significantly, the Office of War Information, the direct predecessor of USIA, itself evolved from the Office of Facts and Figures that had been set-up before the war.
Frank Ninkovich cites 1938 as the official start of American cultural diplomacy with the establishment of the Division of Cultural Relations within the State Department in July of that year, the very same summer as “Three Centuries of American Art was held in Paris.” See Ninkovich, 1981, 26-34, where the author also considers the competing Axis initiatives.
On the contrast in aesthetic between the two exhibitions, cf. in addition to Rotily, 1997, Wiesinger, 1993, and specifically the section “La Politique d’Expositions temporaires,” (271-3).
MoMA press release no 371103-35, n. pag, announcing the opening on November 8 1937 of a preview of the “Paris retrospective exhibition” that had been put together for the New York public.
MoMA press release n°371103-35 of November 11, 1937.
MoMA press release n°38418-17 of April 20, 1938. Indeed the New York Ashcan School as well the late 1930s wave of abstraction was minimally represented in the exhibition. Ironically, the Museum of Modern Art (as is well known) subsequently went on to become the chief champion of American modernism, mainly through its patronage of Abstract expressionism.
MoMA press release n°39109-1 of January 11, 1939. Hogue’s “Drought Survivors” is now on permanent loan from the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris to the Franco-American Museum of Blérancourt. For provenance of the individual works, cf. also Musée du Jeu de Paume, 1938, 18-58.
As noted by Rotily, 1997, 182. On regionalism as nationalism and vice versa in this period, cf. Benayada, 2009 and most recently, Doss, 2013, 14-5.
Compare for instance a newer study like Sitton’s, 2014, which devotes several chapters to these years when, in Sitton’s terms, the museum became a virtual adjunct department of the federal government, with an older history like Lynes, 1973, which quickly rushes past this entire period.
MoMA President A Conger Goodyear would later remember, “then [in 1932] began the flood of Americana under Cahill’s direction” (Goodyear, 1943, 41). On Cahill and his wife’s role at MoMA, cf. ibid., 91-2.
MoMA was in constant communication with the Federal Art Program during the second half of the 1930s. It organized exhibitions like “TVA Architecture,” “Houses and Housing (Federal Housing Authority),” “Documents of America (Farm Security Administration)” “Posters, Spanish and US Government,” in addition to an exhibition of watercolors from the Index of American Design, permanent loans of FAP work for MoMA’s collection and the major exhibit “New Horizons in American Art” (1936) with 300 works by 225 artists all drawn from the WPA Art Project. Holger Cahill was “responsible for several of the Museum’s most original and influential American shows, publications and broadcasts and served as a constant friend and adviser to the Museum in its work on American Painting and Sculpture.” Cf. “American Art and the Museum,” 1940, 4. MoMA both provided and received grants to the FAP (including in connection with the Paris exhibition), cf. ibid., “Collaboration with the United States Government on Behalf of American Art,” 17. Four paintings and one sculpture by Project artists from the government’s collection and several others belonging to private collectors were among those exhibited in Paris. I would like to thank Virginia Mecklenburg of the Smithsonian American Art Museum for her guidance in my research on this aspect of the exhibition.
The book dwells on landscape on multiple instances: “The Hudson River School and its Heirs” (45-7), “Three Landscape Painters and a solitary—Inness, Martin, Wyant, Ryder” (71-6) etc. A draft for this last chapter in Cahill’s papers at the National Archives reads “The landscape school of painting of the Nineteenth Century was an outgrowth of the sense of nationalism that was prevalent in American at the time.” Cf. Federal Art Project General Project File, ca. 1936 - ca. 1940, Box 4: Correspondence and Memoranda, Record Group, 69, National Archives and Records Administration (College Park, MD).
Memorandum by Cahill to Ellen Woodward, November 13, 1937. Federal Art Project General Project File, ca. 1936 - ca. 1940, Box 4: Correspondence and Memoranda, Record Group, 69, National Archives and Records Administration (College Park, MD). Cahill adds, “it will be the most outstanding exhibition of American Art sent to Europe in our time. I hope we can get a good project representation.” Indeed government-sponsored work was represented in nearly all the sections of the exhibition: in addition to The River shown as part of the film program, paintings by Cameron Booth, Louis Guglielmi and Jack Levine, a sculpture by Concetta Scaravaglione, architectural models of PWA housing and photography by Walker Evans, Theodor Jung, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee and Ben Shahn were all courtesy of the FAP. Cf. n°15, 68, 110, 221, 338, 343, 344, 345, 359 in the catalog Musée du Jeu de Paume, 1938. Jocelyne Rotily stresses the influence of FAP’s promotion of a popular American art in assembling the exhibition, cf. Rotily, 1997, 185-6. On Cahill and Barr’s collaboration, cf. Rotily, 1996, 173.
Cf. O’Connor, 1969, 32.
The negative reviews of Trois Siècles d’Art aux États-Unis and its subsequent iteration in London, are among the only features covered in the relevant bibliography. In addition to the summary provided in Jewell, 1939 (chapters 2 on the Paris exhibition and 3 on the London counterpart—hereinafter cited parenthetically in-text), cf. Alexander, 1997, 74; Love, 1999, 748-9 and Goodyear, 1943, 78-80. As Goodyear notes, “one great New York newspaper [NY Times] devoted its art pages for three successive Sundays to examining European critical opinions. […] The verdict—an ‘overwhelming denial’ that there is an American art.”
I am purposefully limiting my discussion to ‘exhibition diplomacy.’ The wider context of Franco-American diplomacy would have to account for a range of other initiatives that started much earlier than the inter-war period; cf. Kennedy, Meslay and Fink, 2006 and, more recently, McCullough, 2011.Haut de page