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American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago: From World War I to 1955

Judith A. Barter, General Editor

Hardcover $75.00
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Numbering approximately 4,000 works, the Art Institute of Chicago’s holdings of American art are among the most comprehensive in the nation. Responsibility for the Modernist portion of these holdings was recently transferred to the Department of American Art, and in 2009, the reinstallation of these works was completed, allowing the museum to tell the entire story of American art from the colonial period through the modern era in one wing of the Art Institute. To mark this major reinstallation and the department’s expandeded purview, we have published the second volume of American Art at the Art Institute, entitled, American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago: From World War I to 1955.

This new volume continues the format established by its predecessor, American Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago (1998), with an introductory essay about the history of the collection focusing on the major collectors, donors, and curators responsible for its growth. The introduction followed by entries for nearly 200 objects selected for their aesthetic and historical importance, and representing all the major Modernist movements, from Social Realism and Surrealism to abstraction and the New York School.

The American Modernism collection at the Art Institute is world-renowned, but has never been published in a comprehensive manner. The volume includes such well-known masterpieces as Hartley’s Movements (1913/15), O’Keeffe’s Black Cross(1929), Wood’s American Gothic (1930), Demuth’s And the Home of the Brave(1931), Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942), Sheeler’s The Artist Looks at Nature (1943), Blume’s The Rock (1944–48), and Davis’s Ready to Wear (1955), as well as major postwar New York School pieces by Baziotes, De Kooning, and Pollock.

The book also includes the outstanding group of works that were owned by the dealer/photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and that arrived at the museum thanks to his wife, Georgia O’Keeffe, who attended the School of the Art Institute and later became a close friend of museum director Daniel Catton Rich. This includes pieces by Dove, Man Ray, Marin, and Storrs, as well as additional major examples by Demuth, Hartley, and O’Keeffe. Supplementing the impressive Stieglitz Collection are works by other European-influenced Modernists such as Dickinson, Lachaise, and Joseph Stella, many of which have never before been published.

Over the last decades, the Department of American Art has added significantly to its holdings of African American and Latino art, and thus the catalogue discusses works by Barthé, Ellison, Lawrence, Motley, Perkins, Pippin, White, and Woodruff, as well as paintings by Latin American artists Orozco, Rivera, and Tamayo.

American artists pursued many directions in the 1940s and 1950s, and these too are encompassed by the catalogue. The art of Chicagoan Ivan Albright is presented in depth, thanks to his generous bequest to the Art Institute, and the work of his contemporaries. Rounding out the selection of fine art is sculpture by Cornell, Noguchi, and Smith.

The decorative arts are no less richly represented, with Art Deco objects by Frankl and Bel Geddes; ceramics by Grotell, the Natzlers, Wright, and Zeisel; Steuben glass designed by Manship; and furniture designed by the Eameses, Neutra, Saarinen, Wright, and many others.

Written in an accessible style that engages both the general reader and the specialist, this volume contains authoritative studies of these important objects, forming an indispensable guide to a major component of one of the most comprehensive holdings of American art in the nation.

The Art Institute of Chicago 2009 
9 1/2 x 12 in.; 384 pages; 247 color illustrations