The response to fascism in American painting, 1933-1945 / by Cécile Marie Whiting.
Between the years 1933 and 1945 American painters ranging from members of New York radical circles to artists from the heartland of the United States reacted to the threat of fascism abroad. The artistic response to fascism, while uniform in its basic anti-fascist sentiment, was nonetheless not hegemonic: These painters devised many different stylistic and thematic anti-fascist strategies which conflicted with and influenced each other. The dissertation is a selective typology surveying six responses to fascism in American painting. The first chapter examines a precursor to anti-fascist painting: didactic illustrations printed in the American radical press in the early thirties which attempted to realize Soviet political and aesthetic goals. Chapter two focuses on two major Social-Realist paintings, one by William Gropper and the other by Peter Blume, in order to establish how American leftist painters adjusted to the political and cultural policies of the Popular Front. Chapter three examines five anti-fascist paintings by Stuart Davis, a leftist artist who attempted to reconcile anti-fascist politics with modern art. Chapter four looks at the anti-fascist response offered by the American Regionalist artists Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton; these artists used American myth and propaganda as a means to fulfill the liberal-traditionalist call to strengthen American patriotism. Chapter five returns to politically radical artists during the war years and describes the expansion of their esthetic beyond the bounds of pure propaganda into the realms of myth and allegory. The sixth and final chapter looks at Surrealist paintings of classical myths by Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb executed during the war; these paintings both articulated the chaos and brutality of the war years and offered a sophisticated alternative for the use of myth in painting to that offered by Nazi, Regionalist, and Social-Realist artists.
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