American Modern Book


American Modern: Hopper to O'Keeffe

by Kathy Curry and Esther Adler.

American Modern presents a fresh look at The Museum of Modern Art's holdings of American art of the first half of the twentieth century. Arranging paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures in loose thematic groups, the book sets celebrated masterworks of the Museum's collection alongside works that have rarely been exhibited in concentration and are relatively little known. In doing so it not only throws light on the cultural preoccupation of the rapidly changing American society of the day but explores an unsung chapter in the Museum's own story.

MoMa is famous for its prescient focus on the avant-garde art of Europe – for exhibiting and collecting the work of such artists as Picasso and Matisse, whose reputations the Museum helped to cement not just in the United States but globally. Meanwhile, though, it was also acquiring work by Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Alfred Stieglitz, Stuart Davis, and other, less well-known American artists whose work sometimes fits awkwardly under the avant-garde umbrella. The still lifes, portraits, and urban, rural, and industrial landscapes that the Museum pursued vary in style, approach, and medium: melancholy images by Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth bump against the eccentric landscapes of Charles Burchfield and the Jazz Age sculpture of Elie Nadelman. Yet a distinct sensibility emerges, revealing a side of the Museum's interests that may surprise a good part of its audience.

An introduction by Kathy Curry and Esther Adler, Assistant Curators in MoMa's Department of Drawings, discusses the visual qualities of these works, and an essay by Adler explores the Museum's history of collecting them.