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Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism

From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism

In this acclaimed revisionist study, Erika Doss chronicles an historic cultural change in American art from the dominance of regionalism in the 1930s to abstract expressionism in the 1940s. She centers her study on Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, Benton’s foremost student in the early thirties, charting Pollock’s early imitation of Benton’s style before his radical move to abstraction. By situating painting within the evolving sociopolitical and cultural context of the Depression and the Cold War, Doss explains the reasons for this change and casts light on its significance for contemporary culture.

"A welcome addition to the growing body of literature that deals with the art and culture of the depression and cold war eras. It is a pioneering work that makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of a puzzling conundrum of American art—the shift from regionalism to abstract expressionism."—M. Sue Kendall, Winterthur Portfolio

"An important scholarly contribution. . . . This book will stand as a step along the way to a better understanding of the most amazing transition in the art of our tumultuous century."—James G. Rogers, Jr., Art Journal

"A valuable and interesting book that restores continuity and political context to the decades of depression and war."—Marlene Park, American Historical Review

462 pages | 137 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1991

Art: American Art

Culture Studies

History: American History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1: Republicanism and Modernism: The Genesis of Regionalism in The American
Historical Epic
2: Liberal Reform and the American Scene: Benton’s 1930s Murals
3: Thomas Hart Benton in Hollywood: Regionalist Art and Corporate Patronage
4: Modernist Accommodation, Corporate Appropriation: The Collapse of
Regionalism and the New Deal
5: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism: Modern Art and Consensus
Politics in Postwar America
6: The Misconstruction of Abstract Expressionism: Institutional Orthodoxy
and Commodification


National Museum of American Art: Charles C. Eldredge Prize

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