American art underwent radical changes in the first decades of the twentieth century. The romantic urban realists, popularly known as “The Ashcan School” embodied a major shift in subject matter. More radical were those embracing European modernism who represented a revolution in style, with parallel cultural developments in literature, music, and theatre. The New Woman and the suffragists signaled substantial social shifts as well.
A significant group of American artists responded enthusiastically to the new aesthetic possibilities they saw, including Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, and pure abstraction. They could see experimental work at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, “291,” beginning in 1908. The landmark Armory Show in New York, an ambitious display of nearly 1400 works, showed modernism on a large scale in 1913. Those able to travel to Europe saw the newest styles in Paris, Berlin, and Munich. New York was the center of the American avant-garde The artists who gravitated to its bohemian center in Greenwich Village found support and confirmation for their new directions. Gradually more galleries were established and patrons began to collect their work.
Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Santa Monica Canyon, 1919. Oil on canvas. Gift of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation in honor of Bill and Mary Kay Post and the Museum’s 50th Anniversary.