"The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National...

Editor's Choice

January 16, 2000|By Michael Pakenham

"The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935" by Wanda M. Corn (University of California Press, 447 pages, $50).

The period between the two World Wars left two immense marks on history: The emergences of the United States in the world and of modernity in art. They cannot, of course, be separated -- the quest for a discrete national culture most vividly expressed itself in art forms. Now comes this remarkable volume, parading as a coffee-table art book whereas it really is a wondrously provoking jaunt through the works and movements that made America see itself -- and the future -- through paintings, cartoons, advertisements: everything visual.

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