American Vanguards Graham, Davis, Gorky, de Kooning, and Their Circle, 1927-1942 William C. Agee, Karen Wilkin, Irving Sandler

Publication date:
27 Dec 2011
Yale University Press
256 pages: 279 x 229mm
123 color + 11 b-w illus.
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The enigmatic and charismatic John Graham (1886-1961) was an important influence on his fellow New York artists between the 1920s and the 1940s. Graham and his circle, which included Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and Willem de Kooning, helped redefine ideas of what painting and sculpture could be. They, along with others in Graham's orbit, such as Jackson Pollock and David Smith, played a critical role in developing and defining American modernism.

American Vanguards showcases about eighty-seven works of art from this vital period that demonstrate the interconnections, common sources, and shared stimuli among the members of Graham's circle. Three essays by notable scholars investigate the complex relationships among Graham and his New York artist-colleagues during this formative period. William Agee positions Graham and his circle within the movement of New Classicism, which drew upon classical and Renaissance examples in an attempt to overcome the devastation of World War I. Irving Sandler focuses on the social, political, and intellectual dynamics among Davis, Gorky, Graham, and de Kooning in the mid-1930s. Karen Wilkin discusses the circumstances that brought these artists together, their common commitment to modernism, and the fascinating artistic cross-fertilization evident in their work. This critical reconsideration sheds new light on the New York School, Abstract Expressionism, and the vitality of American modernism between the two world wars.

William C. Agee is Evelyn Kranes Kossak Professor of Art History at Hunter College. Irving Sandler and Karen Wilkin are distinguished independent curators, scholars, and critics.

"The three essays in the book are cogent and well researched, with supporting notes that are contemporary to the period and inclusive of newly published material. The binding is sturdy and the layout attractive, making for easy legibility. . . . Highly recommended."—R.A. Lockard, Choice

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