True Grit: American Prints from 1900 to 1950

Getty. 2019. 112p. ISBN 9781606066270. $35. FINE ARTS
Published in conjunction with an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, this study explores the uneven banalities of urban life as depicted by several printmakers who were influenced by the painter and educator Robert Henri. The work marks a reaction to the understated, elegant Victorian depictions of idealized, bourgeois pursuits of a bygone age in favor of an emphasis on diagonal lines, movement, and energetic mark-making, reveling in the unvarnished exposure of quotidian subjects. Peggy Bacon, George Bellows, and Edward Hopper figure prominently among the show’s 20 artists, whose work highlights the tension between the crowded conditions of the working poor and hopeful aspirations of metropolitan life. Essays by Getty drawings curator Schrader, American art curator James Glisson, and Stanford art history professor Alexander Nemerov offer historical insights and surprising analyses, while each of the 37 prints from the exhibition is wonderfully reproduced here. The black-and-white scenes of crowded tenements, soaring skyscrapers, and intimate moments present a refreshing perspective on early 20th-century American art and the development of printmaking.
VERDICT A dynamic survey that offers an engaging inquiry for printmakers and art historians.
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