(See front cover)
By last week, the U. S. art season was at its peak. In Manhattan there were no less than 70 exhibitions in progress. The public could see and buy practically anything it wanted. On 57th Street Edward Bruce was exhibiting the landscape technique and Chinese perspective he developed under the watchful eye of Maurice Sterne. Sir Francis Rose, Gertrude Stein's latest painter-protege, was showing his sultry canvases. The Museum of Modern Art was aflame with Van Goghs, Cezannes, Toulouse-Lautrecs. At the New School for Social Research Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Robert Brackman, John Sloan and Alexander Brook were impressing their pupils with their craftsmanship.
In Chicago, the Art Institute was showing Degas and Manet prints. Pittsburgh was sending its big Carnegie International exhibition to Baltimore. San Franciscans were peering thoughtfully at Sculptress Malvina Hoffman's Races of Man. Los Angeles was holding its second annual California Modernists Exhibition. In Northampton, Mass., Smith College girls were giggling before Man Ray's Surrealist photographs.
Presented with their best year in five, dealers were again beginning to take cocktails with luncheon. The public's interest in art was proved by museum attendances which were uniformly up over last year. In one month in Manhattan, Ferargil Galleries' annual Artists' Relief Exhibition netted more than $2,000 with pictures priced at $5-$50. U. S. sales of the year were a Charles Willson Peale Washington to the Brooklyn Museum (price undisclosed) ; an early Rembrandt of Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet to the Chicago Art Institute; Jean Antoine Watteau's Mezzetin to the Metropolitan Museum for some $250,000 (TIME, Dec. 17). The 1934 U. S. art turnover easily topped $126,000,000.*
As usual, top prices went for Old Masters whose value has survived many a depression. In London and Manhattan auctions the 18th Century English portrait painters stood their customary ground as stolidly as oaks. But in U. S. sales of contemporary paintings, observers noted a significant difference. This year the French schools seem to be slipping in popular favor while a U. S. school, bent on portraying the U. S. scene, is coming to the fore.
In 1913 France conquered the U. S. art world. At the famed Manhattan Armory show arranged by the late Arthur B. Davies, the U. S. public got its first big dose of the arbitrary distortions and screaming colors which were making France's crop of artists the most spectacular in the world. The War took the public's mind temporarily off art but at its end French artists were sitting on top of the world. U. S. painters, unable to sell at home or abroad, tried copying the French, turned out a profusion of spurious Matisses and Picassos, cheerfully joined the crazy parade of Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism. Painting became so deliberately unintelligible that it was no longer news when a picture was hung upside down.