cover image American Salons: Encounters with European Modernism, 1885-1917

American Salons: Encounters with European Modernism, 1885-1917

Robert Morse Crunden. Oxford University Press, $100 (520pp) ISBN 978-0-19-506569-5

In this ambitious overview, Crunden ( The Mind and Art of Albert Jay Nock ) looks at modernism in the U.S. and abroad as practiced by leading artists and intellectuals. He begins with discussions of modernist precursors James Whistler, Henry James and William James, then explores regional variations and contributions to modernism before zeroing in on actual salons. A few subjects appear to have been included solely because of their appeal to the author: Crunden acknowledges that H. L. Mencken was no modernist183 , yet devotes pages to him. Likewise, a section on Los Angeles deals with the films of Griffith, Sennett and Chaplin without more than a superficial nod to what made them modernists. The title is a little misleading, since plenty of the encounters described took place in Europe, though featuring Americans, and many of the American scenes chronicled were not so much salons as cultural manifestations--jazz, for example--which had an impact on some modernists. The most vivid chapters look at Americans in Europe and New York City: Leo and Gertrude Stein's salon in Paris, and Mabel Dodge's crowd in Manhattan. Specialists may grumble at Crunden's assessments of individual modernists, but his exhaustive archival research makes the book a valuable resource. (Oct.)