Modern Art Invasion: Picasso, Duchamp, and the 1913 Armory Show That Scandalized America

Overview

In 1910 New York’s art scene was dull and stuck in the past—lagging considerably behindEurope. Before the century reached its midpoint, however, New York would come to dominate the art world. It seemed that in a blink of an eye New York City transformed from provincial backwater to vibrant epicenter of the art world.
This incredible transformation was entirely triggered by the Armory Show, the most important art exhibit in U.S. history. Held at Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory ...

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Modern Art Invasion: Picasso, Duchamp, and the 1913 Armory Show That Scandalized America

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Overview

In 1910 New York’s art scene was dull and stuck in the past—lagging considerably behindEurope. Before the century reached its midpoint, however, New York would come to dominate the art world. It seemed that in a blink of an eye New York City transformed from provincial backwater to vibrant epicenter of the art world.
This incredible transformation was entirely triggered by the Armory Show, the most important art exhibit in U.S. history. Held at Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory in 1913, the show brought modernism to America in an unprecedented display of 1300 works by artists including Picasso, Matisse, and Duchamp, A quarter of a million Americans visited the show; most couldn’t make sense of what they were seeing. Newspaper critics questioned the artists’ sanity. A popular rumor held that the real creator of one abstract canvas was a donkey with its tail dipped in paint.
The Armory Show went on to Boston and Chicago and its effects spread across the country. American artists embraced a new spirit of experimentation as conservative art institutions lost all influence. New modern art galleries opened to serve collectors interested in buying the most progressive works. Over time, the stage was set for American revolutionaries such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. Today, when museums of modern and contemporary art dot the nation and New York reigns as art capital of the universe, we live in a world created by the Armory Show.
Elizabeth Lunday, author of the breakout hit Secret Lives of Great Artists, tells the story of the exhibition from the perspectives of organizers, contributors, viewers, and critics. Brimming with fascinating and surprising details, the book takes a fast-paced tour of life in America and Europe, peering into Gertrude Stein’s famous Paris salon, sitting in at the fabulous parties of New York socialites, and elbowing through the crowds at the Armory itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
[I]t is not often that writings on art serve to pump up readers the way a locker room speech might, leaving them primed to charge back out into the world ready to topple the old and usher in the new. But so it goes with The Modern Art Invasion, the story of the vanguard 1913 Armory Show that forever changed American tastes with its stints in New York, Chicago, and Boston.
From the Publisher
"A vivid, compelling portrait of the Armory Show and its lasting influence on American art." – Kirkus Reviews"It is not often that writings on art serve to pump up readers the way a locker room speech might, leaving them primed to charge back out into the world ready to topple the old and usher in the new. But so it goes with The Modern Art Invasion...Lunday has a strong narrative at her back here, and she wisely lets this rip-snorting tale have its head... - The Boston Globe"The Modern Art Invasion ultimately uses the famous 193 exhibition as a lens through which to view art history going back more than a century. The author has fit into this trim volume a world of insight, interesting life stories and plenty of art history. It's a fun read and essential to anyone interested in learning how American art of the 20th century came to be." - The Patriot Ledger"Brilliantly chronicles the American art world's fateful collision with European Modernism and the game-changing innovations of Picasso, Matisse, and Duchamp at the famed Armory Show of 1913. Following the lives of Walt Kuhn, Arthur B. Davies, and the show's other organizers, Lunday captures the sights and sounds of the era as well as the intellectual and social background behind the Armory Show's genesis in this must-read account of a truly pivotal moment in art history." - Jonathan Lopez, author of The Man who Made Vermeers"Elizabeth Lunday gives a lively and often humorous introduction to the world of modern art through the lives, ambitions and rivalries of the outsized personalities involved in the landmark Armory Show. She also offers a fascinating assessment of the legacies of the exhibition that caused such a seismic shift in American culture - one whose shocks, she shows, are still being felt and absorbed a century later." - Ross King, author of Leonardo and the Last Supper and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling"A lusciously detailed, highly readable account of the dazzling visual explosion that confronted the American world at the first modern art exhibition in New York in 1913. Peopled by fascinating personalities like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin and the hostile critics who greeted their masterpieces as 'sheer insanity.' This powerfully told story reveals why art matters." — Anne-Marie O'Connor, author of The Lady in Gold, the Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer"Combing through vast research and archival materials, the author has managed to distill the essence of the 1913 Armory Show and presents her findings in a style and manner that is very accessible. Not only well researched and well written, it is also a splendid romp across the art world of the twentieth century…Lunday captures it all in a succinct and, at times, witty voice." - Laurette McCarthy, Art historian and author of Walter Pach (1883-1958): The Armory Show and the Untold Story of Modern Art in America
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-01
Lunday (Secret Lives of Great Composers, 2009, etc.) supplies a sharp narrative history of the famous 1913 Armory Show in New York, which helped to introduce the American public to modern art. When the International Exhibition of Modern Art opened in the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue on February 17, 1913, the American public had no idea what was in store for it. Chiefly organized by three artists--Walt Kuhn, Walter Pach and Arthur Davies--disillusioned that the artistic establishment known as the Academy had shunned their work, the Armory Show was the first large-scale exhibition of modernist and avant-garde art in America. The organization these men helped found to oversee the show was called the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, and its primary goal was to take down the outdated Academy's stranglehold on the local art world. While modern painting had shaken up art establishments in Germany and France, Americans remained mostly unaware of the radical aesthetic movements taking hold. While the AAPS was optimistic about modernist art, many of the reviews and reactions of gallery visitors were less than understanding. Reviews often castigated the artists as insane and immoral, while attendees became obsessed with trivialities like finding the nude in Duchamp's show-stealing Nude Descending a Staircase. However, it didn't matter since the exhibition was a sensation. Lunday smartly refers to it in 21st-century parlance as a "meme" since it inspired so many crossover cultural references. But New York was kind compared to the show's touring stops in Chicago and Boston, which tried to shut it down on obscenity charges. While the author ably crafts a narrative out of the building of the show, she expertly follows its influence through the reactionary "Regionalism" artists of the 1930s to the culmination of its ideals in Jackson Pollock, whose abstract paintings epitomized a uniquely American sensibility. A vivid, compelling portrait of the Armory Show and its lasting influence on American art.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781493000623
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/1/2015
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,108,810

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Lunday is the author of two popular books: Secret Lives of Great Composers and Secrets Lives of Great Artists. The Secret Lives of Great Artists has sold over 25,000 copies and been translated into eight languages. She wrote mental floss's Masterpieces column for six years, and has had stories in ScientificAmerican.com and American Archeology. Secret Lives was reviewed in newspaper from Oregon to Santa Fe to San Antonio to Cleveland. Elizabeth has appeared on PRI's national program "Here and Now" as well as local stations in Dallas, Austin and Tulsa. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Visit her at www.lunday.com.

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