The history of the birth of modern art of the last forty years is confused with the history of the Photo Secession Gallery in New York, located at no. 291 of the 5th Street and therefore called “291” briefly. Founded by the photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) in 1905, to exhibit the works of anti-traditionalist photographers, it soon began to exhibit avant-garde paintings and sculptures and with this character it lasted until 1917 making known to the American public the most daring efforts of European artists and those among the Americans who knew how to understand them, develop them and thus arrive at a personal vision. At “291” the American public was able to meet, among Europeans, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, H. Rousseau, Cézanne, Picasso, Brancusi, Severini, etc. and, among the Americans, artists such as A. Maurer, M. Weber, M. Hartley, A. Where and, in the first place, John Marin. It is only after the beginning of this tireless, intelligent and passionate work, led by Stieglitz and his collaborator E. Steichen, and after the great exhibition of the Armory Show (1913) organized by the painter A. Davies (1862-1928) together with his colleague Walt Kuhn and others, which began to develop the interest of the public and a number of avant-garde galleries were born, among which the Société Anonyme (1920) created by Katharine Dreier and Marcel Duchamp. In 1929, with the birth of the Museum of Modern Art (architect Philip L. Goodwin), the United States was endowed with a formidable institution which, with a series of publications and monumental periodic exhibitions, mostly retrospective and accompanied of an exceptional historical didactic material, would have allowed New York to become in a short time, after Paris, the richest and most updated center of contemporary world art.
Alfred Maurer (1868-1932) was among the first to follow the pictorial experiences from across the Atlantic, and particularly by Matisse. A more markedly expressionist current are Abraham Wallkowitz (born in 1889), Max Weber (born in 1881) and Marsden Hartley (1877-1943). A feeling of epic grandeur instead expresses John Marin (born in 1870), who is now considered the greatest living American artist.
In 1912 a Futurist-Dadaist movement developed in New York due to the arrival of Marcel Duchamp and Picabia and an abstract movement, synchromism (1913), by Morgan Russel and especially by Mc Donald-Wright, who used in his paintings the Kandinskian experiences. The latter movement did not, however, have notable results, while the first trend developed with the futurist Joseph Stella (the Brooklyn Bridge is famous, of which he painted several versions) and above all with Arthur Dove (1880-1946), who for a long time remained unrecognized, who used Picabia’s experiments by composing paintings in which he tried to make the poetic impression of a certain natural reality through the physical presence of symbolic fragments of it incorporated into the painting: for example, in the famous Nigger goes A – fishin ‘.
In reaction to these movements considered xenophiles, however, a current called the American Scene Cult arose, patron of a national painting that sang the fields of Iowa and the plantations of the South (Grant Wood, John Stewart Curry, Reginald Marsh, Thomas Benton, etc..). Another current, of a social character, developed on the other hand, under the influence of the Mexican Diego Rivera (Nicolai Tikovsky; William Gropper, born in 1897). Both currents, although they have found innumerable more or less direct followers, have not produced up to now, in painting, results worthy of relief.
In caricature and illustration, the satirical-social trend has instead had happy moments with artists such as Art Young, William Gropper and Marius De Zayas, valid coadjutor of Stieglitz, and found in The Print Collector’s Quarterly magazine (founded in 1911) an effective stimulus. Among the lithographers, the eldest is considered to be George Bellows (born in 1882).
Recent is the discovery of popular painters (Modern Primitives), from the most distant such as Edward Hicks (1780-1849) or Joseph Pickett (1848-1918), to the most recent such as John Kane (1860-1934) or living ones such as Arenst Hoyer (born in 1872). Among them is also counted Vincent Canadé (born in 1879). Their quaint and childlike realism has a lot of influence on average American production.
Among the sculptors who have emerged in the last forty years, the most important are the primitivists William Zorach (born in 1887) and John Flannagan (born in 1898), the abstract and constructivist Alexander Calder (born in 1898) and the surrealist Isamu Noguchi (born in 1904).
With the advent of Nazism and the outbreak of the Second World War, artists such as Grosz, Feininger, Dali, Ernst and Tanguy and, until 1947, Chagall became practically part of American art. Today, despite the survival of expressionists such as Abraham Rattner (born in 1893) and K. Knaths (born in 1892), the last generations appear literally invaded by surrealist and abstract forms (Wilfred Lam, Enrico Donati, Julio De Diego, David Hare, Stuart Davis, Hedda Sterne).