Cover image for New York modern : the arts and the city
New York modern : the arts and the city
Scott, William B., 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xx, 448 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NX511.N4 S38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In this volume, William B. Scott and Peter M. Rutkoff explore how the varied features of the urban experience in New York inspired the work of artists such as Isadora Duncan, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, Eugene O'Neill, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, John Cage, Arthur Miller and James Baldwin, who together shaped 20th-century American culture. In painting, sculpture, photography, film, music, dance, theatre and architecture, New York artists redefined what it meant to be modern. Unlike Paris, London and Berlin, New York's complexity made it impossible for any single school, academy or patron to enforce a dominant style or aesthetic. By the 1950s, New York Modern had matured into an artistic culture that celebrated diversity and controversy. Neither a style nor a school, New York Modern was an artistic dialogue - part engagement, part resistance, part celebration -that invited artists from a variety of backgrounds and with divergent concerns to voice their particular understandings of urban life and its relationship to modern art. Their independence and vitality established New York City as America's cultural centre in the 20th century.

Author Notes

William B. Scott and Peter M. Rutkoff are Neh Distinguished Professors of History at Kenyon College.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

New York's domination of the world art scene from the early 20th century to the 1970s was, according to Scott and Rutkoff, a great anomaly, born of factors unlikely ever to be repeated: the economic and political disruption of Europe in the two world wars; the relative poverty of the non-European world; and the great gulf between New York City and other U.S. cities. These Kenyon College history professors distill an enormous range of scholarly work on visual art, architecture, music, drama and dance, as well as on movements like Dada and fields like museum studies, although there is little primary work in evidence. Admirably and correctly, they treat the development and elaboration of jazz (from ragtime to swing to bop to "third stream" and beyond) as equivalent in significance to the elements in the more familiar narrative of how the American artists of Stieglitz's 291 gallery, and the scandalous European modernists exhibited at the 1913 armory show, led to the institutionalization of the avant-garde by the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The authors' clear vision of New York as the center of a plurality of modern arts, particularly after WWII, is bolstered by their minute attention to the social structures and political ideals that undergirded the polis and supported the artistic community. They are particularly astute in their scathing indictment of 1950s and '60s urban renewal, and in their documentation of Harlem's central role in all the arts. While experts will most likely find omissions, the authors must be credited with making an earnest effort not to oversimplify their charting of a spectacular artistic firmament. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This book highlights the performing as well as the plastic arts, covering painting, sculpture, poetry, photography, film, music, dance, architecture, and theater in the context of social history and 20th-century New York. In a prolog and 12 chapters of self-contained essays that move through time from the beaux arts to postwar abstraction, the notion of what is modern and why it flourished and prevailed in New York is the connecting theme. Scott and Rutkoff (both history, Kenyon Coll.) explore the energy and vitality of the city from Greenwich Village to Harlem as a supportive (and destructive) environment for the arts. Like a nonfiction Ragtime, the book presents a cast of characters that is remarkable, from Robert Henri and his school of art at the beginning of the century through Steiglitz and O'Keeffe to the happenings of Cunningham and Cage in the 1960s. While solidly based in scholarship, the lively, well-organized prose provides enough colorful detail to keep the pages turning. As Man Ray once observed, "Dada is impossible in New York. New York is Dada." Recommended for New York history, American art, and modern art collections.ÄEllen Bates, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Scott and Rutkoff (both, Kenyon College) survey New York City as a seed-bed where a range of uniquely American contributions in all the arts were fostered during the course of the present century. The premise that by mid-century New York had not only challenged but even preempted the creative clout of the long dominant European centers is not novel, nor is the evidence advanced to support it wholly fresh. But the arguments presented are abundantly documented and convincing. The 12 component chapters summarize salient episodes in that cultural development, with attention to major contributors whose roles are succinctly portrayed. Some readers may find both the solicitous, politically correct tone of the discourse and its doctrinaire notions of "modernity" discomfiting. Does it matter that Charles Ives or Ruth St. Denis were not wholly "modern" or their personal contradictions of character and purpose unresolved? By what standards are their contributions to be judged? Still, the authors are to be thanked for their review of issues that persist, even in today's multicultural world, where even New York can no longer be considered central. Halftone illustrations. All levels. F. A. Trapp; Amherst College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Prologue: Before the Modern: The New York Renaissance
1 Times Square: Urban Realism for a New New York
2 Paris and New York: From Cubism to Dada
3 Bohemian Ecstasy: Modern Art and Culture
4 New York Modern: Art in the Jazz Age
5 Rhapsody in Black: New York Modern in Harlem
6 Modernism versus New York Modern: Moma and the Whitney
7 True Believers on Union Square: Politics and Art in the 1930s
8 Behind the American Scene: Music, Dance, and the Second Harlem Renaissance
9 New York Blues: The Bebop Revolution
10 Homage to the Spanish Republic: Abstract Expressionism and the New York Avant-Garde
11 Life without Father: Postwar New York Drama
12 Renovating the Modern: Monuments and Insurgents