September 16, 1974:
American Prints: 1920 - 1930, an exhibition of 77 lithographs, etchings and wood-cuts, will be shown at The Brooklyn Musuem from September 18 through January 19, 1975. Among artists represented are Charles Sheeler, John Sloan, Edward Hopper, Marsden Hartley, Rockwell Kent, George Biddle and Philip Evergood. The works on view were selected from the collection of the Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings by Jo Miller, Curator, and Nancy Tousley, Assistant Curator.
“The history of American art in the early decades of this century, “ says Ms. Tousley, “is that of a struggle between an allegience to the high culture of Europe and the desire to create a distinct and authentic American style. Although the Ash Can School (beginning in 1908) rebelled against genteel academicism and embraced a new urban realism which championed democracy and the vitality of popular culture, their revolt was not aesthetic in the European sense of avant-garde. European stylistic influences continued to be pervasive. A major result of the Armory Show of 1913 was to instill a new consciousness of formal and compositional values. During the decade of the twenties, a period of post-war political and cultural isolation for the U. S., attempts were made to integrate the new American spirit of artistic independence without discarding the lessons to be learned from European modernist art.”
Reflecting the artistic concerns of the period, subject matter in printmaking was predominately that of the American scene: the force and energy of the growing cities as typified by New York and the power of American industrialism. As seen in the exhibition, Joseph Pennell’s etchings and aquatints of the Brooklyn Bridge and Columbia Heights show the European influence of Whistler. Childe Hassam’s etchings of New York and East Hampton imbue these familiar scenes with the light effects of the Impressionist painters through arrangements of short, hatched strokes which make full use of the white of his papers. John Sloan’s “Buses in Washington Square” and “14th Street, The Wigwam, “ show the quick and keen observation of detail learned during Sloan’s early training as a newspaper illustrator.
Interest in Cubism, sparked by the Armory Show, is reflected in the experimental, semi-abstract etchings of Arthur B. Davies and, very differently, in John Mann’s “Downtown the El” and Charles Sheeler‘s “Delmonico Building. “ Cubist influences can also be seen in “The Brooklyn Bridge” and “Hanover Square” lithographs by Louis Lozowick, Walkowitz’s lithograph “New York, “ William Zorach’s linoleum cut “Johnny Dundee v s. Firpo,” and in the small, beautifully colored woodcuts of Max Weber.
Engaging genre scenes of the period abound in the satirical etchings of Peggy Bacon, the lithographs of Glen O. Coleman and Adolph Dehn, and in the proficient etchings of Martin Lewis. Six etchings by Edward Hopper are from the period before 1925 during which, according to Ms. Tousley, "Hopper was producing etchings that are without doubt the finest graphic achievements of the decade and are among the greatest in American graphic art to date. True to Hopper’s feelings about nature and the human predicament, they are indelibly American.”
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