Cover image for Frames of reference : looking at American art, 1900-1950 : works from the Whitney Museum of American Art
Frames of reference : looking at American art, 1900-1950 : works from the Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art.
Publication Information:
New York : The Museum, [1999]

Physical Description:
223 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 27 cm


Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N6512 .W532 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The Whitney Museum of American Art, founded by visionary patron and artist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942), is home to one of the finest collections of American art in the country. Frames of Reference features eminent contributors from the fields of art, literature, and contemporary culture who together provide a wide-ranging introduction to American art as well as to the Whitney Museum's unparalleled collection.

Kennedy Fraser's introductory essay focuses on Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, especially on her relationships with the artists of her time, her own artistic development, and her farsighted advocacy of American art and artists. In section two, Adam D. Weinberg, Beth Venn, Kathryn Potts, and Kate Rubin concentrate on twenty-seven of the Whitney's most popular works, each entry accompanied by captions and related images that shed new light on old favorites. The book's third section features ten "icons" from the Whitney's Permanent Collection, with three contributors providing distinct perspectives on each work. This stimulating combination of voices instructs, enlightens, and, at times, amuses: John Updike on Edward Hopper's Early Sunday Morning , Alan Dershowitz on Ben Shahn's The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti , and George Plimpton on George Bellows' Dempsey and Firpo are examples of this section's diverse mix.

With its unique design and variety of approaches to viewing and understanding art, Frames of Reference will change the way visitors experience the Whitney Museum and will delight art lovers who might not have the opportunity to visit New York.

Author Notes

Adam D. Weinberg , formerly senior curator, Permanent Collection, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, is director of the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. Beth Venn is curator of traveling exhibitions and director of branch museums at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This attractive, useful book is built around the good idea of a Whitney curator: to revisit some of the most familiar paintings in that museum's collection, placing each in two pages of context, with generous illustrations. Some 23 paintings and three sculptures are treated in this manner--works that art history professors are likely to want to teach--and the accompanying pictorial essays happen to suggest appropriate lecture topics. It is the kind of contextualist approach (aesthetic, biographical, social, political) that can excite students--and that makes these very familiar images seem interesting again. Intriguing juxtapositions are produced; for example, Andrew Wyeth's 1942 Winter Fields, with its dead crow, is compared to an 1863 Timothy O'Sullivan photograph of Gettysburg corpses. At the back, ten artworks are discussed by 37 celebrity authors in longer, thoughtful essays. The writers are ingeniously matched to the pictures: Alan Dershowitz on Ben Shahn's Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, George Plimpton on George Bellows's Dempsey and Firpo, John Updike on Edward Hopper's Early Sunday Morning. A bonus is the introductory chapter on Gertrude Whitney as collector and all-around remarkable person. Every museum should produce such a book. General readers; undergraduates through faculty. ; Delaware College of Art and Design

Table of Contents

ContributorsRobert Adams and Maurice Berger and Alan Dershowitz and Marianne Doezema and Charles Eldredge and Lewis Erenberg and Howard Gardner and Peter Gay and Brendan Gill and Henry Glassie and Elliot J. Gorn and Neil Harris and Kathryn Harrison and Alfred Kazin and Lisa Mahar and Richard Martin and Patricia McDonnell and Kathleen Norris and Brian O'Doherty and Sarah Peters and Henry Petroski and George Plimpton and Francis K. Pohl and Kathryn Potts and Martin Puryear and Kate Rubin and Ellen Snyder-Grenier and John Updike and Beth Venn and Ann Wagner and Adam D. Weinberg and Robert Wilson and John Yau