Cover image for Artists on the left : American artists and the Communist movement, 1926-1956
Artists on the left : American artists and the Communist movement, 1926-1956
Hemingway, Andrew.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
ix, 357 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 28 cm
New masses and the cultural movement in the third period. The early New masses ; Mike Gold and the proletarian aesthetic ; The future and the past : USSR versus USA ; New masses and the International Union of Revolutionary Writers ; The rise and fall of the John Reed clubs -- Defining revolutionary art : cultural criticism in the third period. Lessons of Soviet culture ; Mexican revolutionary art ; Proletarian artists versus 100 per cent Americanism : art criticism in New masses up to 1935 ; Art front -- Revolutionary art on display : the John Reed clubs and the Whitney Museum. John Reed Club art exhibitions ; John Reed Club artists outside the clubs -- Communist artists and the New Deal (1) : the federal art projects before the people's front. The CPUSA and the New Deal ; Federal art projects, 1933-1935 ; The ideology of federal art ; The Artists' Union ; The union critique ; Communists in the Public Works of Art Project -- Cultural criticism from the people's front to the democratic front. New masses, 1936-1940 ; Art criticism in New masses, 1936-1940 ; The Marxist Critics Group ; Art front's last year ; The Daily worker's art column -- Social art on display : organisations and exhibitions. The American Artists' Congress ; Exhibitions of the American Artists' Congress ; Artists' Union exhibitions and other initiatives ; The American Artists School ; The American Group, Inc. ; The ACA Gallery ; Social art at the Whitney Museum -- Communist artists and the New Deal (2) : from the people's front to the democratic front. The Federal Art Project and the struggle over WPA ; The CPUSA and the Federal Art Project ; The ideology of the Federal Art Project ; The Treasury Section of Fine Arts ; The WPA Federal Art Project -- Cultural Organising after 1939 : the Artists League of America, Artists Equity and other initiatives. The Artists League of America ; The Victory Workshop and the Graphic Workshop ; The arts, sciences and professions ; The Waldorf Conference ; Artists Equity Association ; The defence of the Rincon Post Office murals ; The ACA Gallery -- Cultural criticism between Hollywood and Zhdanovism. The Maltz affair ; Art criticism in the Daily worker ; New masses and Masses & mainstream ; The end of democratic front aesthetics and the emergence of Zhdanovism ; The crisis of 1956-1957 and its aftermath -- Social art in the Cold War. Changing personnel ; The new symbolism ; Socialist humanism and the portrait ; Jack Levine's comédie humaine ; African American people's art : Charles White and Jacob Lawrence ; Modernism and social narrative.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N72.P6 H46 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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This remarkable book is the first to examine in abundant detail the relation between visual artists and the American Communist movement during the twentieth century. Andrew Hemingway charts the rise and decline of the Communist Party's influence on art in the United States from the Party's dramatic rise in prestige during the Great Depression to its effective demise in the 1950s. Offering a full account of how left-wing artists responded to the Party's various policy shifts over these years, Hemingway shows that the Communist Party exerted a powerful force in American culture, even after the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

The author scrutinizes the works of an array of leftist artists, many of great interest but largely forgotten today. He demonstrates that American art produced within the Communist Party's orbit was far more diverse and had a much more complex relationship with modernism than has been previously understood. Refusing to march in lockstep to Party requirements, artists and critics in and around the Party accepted no single aesthetic line and engaged in heated debates. Hemingway offers radical new interpretations of some familiar works, reassesses the role of the John Reed Clubs and the work of artists in the federal art programs, and revises accepted thinking about art in the United States during the Cold War. In short, he offers a distinguished and original political history that recovers the rich artistic and intellectual legacy of the American left.

Author Notes

Andrew Hemingway is reader in history of art, University College London.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

An extensive investigation of the U.S. communist publications New Masses, Art Front, and The Daily Worker gives this collection of political art real context and bite, and provides an invaluable resource for students of the era's cultural criticism. A British scholar who has written about art in the context of 19th-century urban culture and bourgeois society, Hemingway explores exhibitions at John Reed Clubs and the Whitney Museum, and provides an in-depth analysis of the New Deal's art projects. Anecdotal histories of feuds between artist and editor Stuart Davis and critic Charles Humboldt and a section on the controversy over Anton Refregier murals at the Rincon Annex Post Office in San Francisco (depicting labor struggles) are generously illustrated. Painters Alice Neel, Jacob Lawrence, Jack Levine, Robert Gwathmey and Anthony Toney are well-represented here; Philip Evergood's Dream Catch and Raphael Soyer's Nude in Studio look great. Hemingway's aim here is not formalist criticism-of the four pages devoted to Refregier's murals, one paragraph addresses the work on artistic grounds. (Nov.) FYI: Documenting the preservation and history of 437 murals, Art for the People: The Rediscovery of Progressive- and WPA-Era Murals in the Chicago Public Schools, 1904-1943, by Chicago Conservation Center vice president Heather Becker, is due in January and features over 250 illustrations, many in color. (Chronicle, $45 248p ISBN 0-8118-3640-1; $29.95 paper -3579-0) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved