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THE INVENTION OF PAINTING IN AMERICA

David Rosand, Author
David Rosand, Author . Columbia Univ. $29.50 (246p) ISBN 978-0-231-13296-1
Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Paperback - 210 pages - 978-0-231-13297-8
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Within the modest confines of this trim and attractive volume (based on a series of lectures), Columbia art historian Rosand (The Meaning of the Mark) tells the big story of how American painting grew and struggled from colonial obscurity to its stunning mid–20th-century coming-of-age. Rosand is refreshingly unapologetic about the triumph of postwar American art, which saw abstract expressionism vanquish all before it and New York replace Paris—permanently, it appears—as the world center of art. But if he chooses not to see this dominance as a State Department plot, he is adept at delineating those historical and cultural forces (from the WPA and FDR to the Mexican muralists) that helped to bring it into being. Rosand is an able practitioner of what he calls "studio history": art history not as gossip or " 'tangible evidence' for something else," but as a practice centered on the professional lives and productions of working artists. But while the often Herculean efforts of American painters, from George Singleton Copley to Arshile Gorky, to educate themselves, make a living, find worthy subjects and deal with both European influences and a hostile or indifferent public are recounted in incisive detail, Rosand does so in a way that never strays very far from an analysis of the paintings themselves, which are generously and numerously reproduced among the 96 b&w and four-color illustrations. (Oct.)

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