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Chapter Two The Artists
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The American Scene

How did the four artists interact socially and politically with one another, and how did each confront the possibilities for making art? To put the question differently, what were the broader social and institutional conditions and the critical discourses through which they produced their work? In the 1920s and 1930s the Fourteenth Street School artists entered the mainstream of American art and eventually held important positions in it. The notion of a mainstream entails the recognition of a broad institutionally sanctioned consensus about the most important art of a period. By consensus, an urban, figurative version of American Scene realism was included in this art. Mainstream art in turn identifies, legitimates, and propagates intellectual ideas, values, and ideologies; it may reveal through images how the contemporary world functions or how certain groups perceive the world.[113] Works


by the Fourteenth Street School artists raise broad questions about the relation between art and society as well as art and politics. For example, do the representations of urban women in these works legitimate or interrogate the discourse of new womanhood as it came to be understood in the interwar decades?

Artists who work within a mainstream do so in complicated ways, sometimes adopting its conventions and values, at other times rebelling against them. It is often difficult to unravel an artist's conscious and strategically planned negotiations with a mainstream from those that are unconscious and somehow "naturalized." Moreover, even as it constitutes itself, an artistic mainstream is always in flux or being redefined with respect to opposing systems it excludes. At the same time, the mainstream may find ways to incorporate some of those very exclusions into a new rhetoric, thereby blurring the boundaries it strives to maintain. Artists in the mainstream gain both individual recognition and social power thanks to validation by other institutional systems of power, whether informational and intellectual (critics, gallery owners, museum curators, and art teachers) or economic (museums, galleries, and, in the 1930s, federal patronage).

The Fourteenth Street School artists were part of a larger group of figurative American Scene painters—artists like Hopper or Pène du Bois—who entered the mainstream in the 1920s. They continued many of the progressive views of the Ashcan painters from the first decade of the century and set themselves against two opposing factions in the art world. Like John Sloan and Robert Henri, they continued to challenge the conservative National Academy of Design—with its rigid exhibition policies, artistic practices, and elite subjects. They also resisted the radical experimentation in abstract forms and deeply personal content of artists whose styles derived from advanced European modernism—like Weber, for example—and whose patrons were Alfred Stieglitz and Walter Arensberg, among others. Fundamentally, these urban realists and their allies were representational artists who embraced American subjects and followed American traditions of realism as established by Thomas Eakins and carried on in the work of the Ashcan school.

As part of their realist program, these artists were also deeply committed to depicting the figure. Although there was no single figurative style or subject, there was a strong figurative tradition in both European and American art of the 1920s that led artists to paint studio pictures (Bernard Karfiol, Alexander Brook, Yasuo Kuniyoshi), portraits (Eugene Speicher), and genre scenes (Glenn Coleman). The Fourteenth Street School artists placed their figures in urban settings; their American scenes constituted a form of genre painting that focused on the lives of average Americans in everyday city situations without attempting to make overt criticisms of their subjects' environment or circumstances.[114] Finally, they dedicated themselves to the old masters.[115] In their work all but Soyer, who looked to Degas and other nineteenth-century precedents, borrowed from what they considered to be an accepted canon of great art extending back through the Renaissance. And in many


cases they made their stylistic and iconographic references to their sources direct and recognizable.

The artists of the Fourteenth Street School were not merely practitioners of a figurative tradition of American Scene realism; they were an integral part of a powerful network of influence that helped to promote and disseminate that tradition. Both the Art Students League and the Whitney Studio Club validated figurative realism in its various manifestations, patronized and publicized the Fourteenth Street School artists, and helped to launch their careers. In the 1920s a majority of the instructors at the Art Students League, where all the artists studied and eventually taught, gave instruction in figurative art. Miller was joined by artists like Guy Pane du Bois (a onetime Miller and Henri student), who taught Soyer and advised Bishop; by John Sloan, with whom Marsh and Edward Laning studied for a time; and by George Bellows, Robert Henri, Wait Kuhn, and Thomas Hart Benton, to name but a few. In the 1930s, all the Fourteenth Street School artists taught at the league themselves. Its institutional structure allowed students to change teachers monthly, giving them a chance to sample a variety of figurative approaches.[116]

For young artists, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's various Whitney institutions provided major patronage and in many cases economic support. Prior to the founding of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1930, Whitney created congenial places for artists' exhibits, sketch classes, and social activities: the Whitney Studio (1914-27), the Whitney Studio Club (1918-28), and the Whitney Studio Galleries (1928-30).[117] In 1927 the art critic Forbes Watson, who preferred both the art and the climate of the Whitney institutions to Alfred Stieglitz's 291, claimed that the Whitney Studio Club "has probably done more than any other single institution to bring to the notice of the public the creative younger artists."[118] Raphael Soyer, who benefited from Whitney patronage and financial support, described the club as the "main gateway to an art career." Alexander Brook called the Whitney organizations a "steppingstone for the artists to gain recognition from critics and dealers. . .. Introductory exhibitions [were] specifically limited to those who did not have an outlet for their work."[119]

In addition to receiving patronage, the Fourteenth Street School artists perpetuated the tradition of figurative realism through their own activities. Gertrude Whitney named Kenneth Hayes Miller and a group of his students who had studied together at the league—Peggy Bacon, Alexander Brook, Louis Bouché, Katherine Schmidt, Reginald Marsh, and Henry Schnakenberg—charter members of the Whitney Studio Club. In 1923, when the club moved to a Greenwich Village house next door to the Whitney Studio, Juliana Force, Mrs. Whitney's major assistant, hired Alexander Brook as assistant director, talent scout, and organizer of exhibitions.[120] Bacon, Schmidt, and her husband, Yasuo Kuniyoshi—also a Miller student—along with Guy Pène du Bois continued to act as advisors to Mrs. Whitney, recommending artists with views sympathetic to their own. Raphael Soyer's introduction to the


Whitney Studio group provides a case study in the workings of Whitney patronage.

In addition to study at the league and patronage from the Whitney organizations, artists practicing figurative realism found support and information in The Arts , the most important new publication for independent-minded American artists.[121] Founded by Hamilton Easter Field (who in 1922 also established the Salons of America, where Soyer first exhibited), The Arts from 1920 to 1931 embodied many of the progressive and liberal values promulgated by Mrs. Whitney. She in turn provided "financial and moral support" to the magazine from 1923 to 1930.[122] Broad-minded in its tastes, the magazine set out "to devote its pages entirely to significant works of the present and past that are in tune with the grand tradition of all time. As a record of what is happening today it is the most complete and uncompromising and therefore the most reliable."[123] With Hamilton Easter Field's death, the editorship passed to Forbes Watson, who promised to uphold the values of its founder. In the first of his monthly editorials he steered a moderate course: "[The Arts ] will be a mouthpiece for neither the radical nor the conservative exclusively, but for art quite regardless of tags. . .. It does not intend to wave the flag, but quite frankly it does intend to stand with the American artist against timidity and snobbery."[124] The magazine's staff included critics who waged war with academic institutions still entrenched in the 1920s but stopped short of fully advocating abstract art.

Like Mrs. Whitney, The Arts sought out and publicized new talent. One of its regular columns, entitled Young America, as early as 1923 featured the recent Yale graduate Reginald Marsh as an ambitious realist artist, ready to paint "America's grand subject."[125] This chatty piece was written by Alan Burroughs, son of the curator of painting at the Metropolitan Museum and Marsh's brother-in-law. Lloyd Goodrich also wrote for the magazine and later became an editor.[126] In 1930, he published his book on Kenneth Hayes Miller through the Arts Publishing Corporation. The book was actually subsidized by Isabel Bishop, who felt Miller deserved more recognition. She approached Goodrich, who was sympathetic to Miller's ideas, having studied painting with him in the teens at the league, and all parties agreed to the proposal. Shortly thereafter, Alan Burroughs wrote another short monograph on Miller for the Whitney Museum's American Artists Series.[127]

Miller and his students Marsh, Bishop, and Laning were close friends, particularly from about 1927 to 1934. During this period they were all involved with the league and the Whitney organizations; after 1934 they saw one another less frequently. By then Marsh and Bishop had new families, all the artists showed their works at different galleries, and each had become involved with additional projects outside the league and what was by then the Whitney Museum.

In the earlier years they had been part of a larger group, a "Miller gang," as Marsh referred to it in his diaries, that included artists like Brook and Bacon, Kuniyoshi and Schmidt, and a variety of Miller's older students from the teens and


1920s. These artists socialized regularly. On the weekends they went to meals at the Burroughs family home in Flushing. They met in neighborhood restaurants and bowled together for a time in the early 1930s.[128] Miller held his weekly Wednesday afternoon teas for all his students, past and present. Many of them were financially comfortable thanks to their families (Marsh, Bishop, and Laning) or to a combination of teaching and artistic success. (In 1931 Miller made enough from the sale of his works to take a year off from teaching at the league; Laning took over his class.)[129] Most came from middle- to upper-middle-class families that had been in America for several generations, and all were tied by professional association and friendship (and in Marsh's case marriage) to established institutions and publications in the art world. Marsh gained additional opportunities thanks to a network of Yale men who occasionally paved the way to artistic projects. William Benton, the advertising mogul who later became president of Encyclopaedia Britannica and a senator, was a devoted friend and regular patron. The editor and publisher Henry Luce gave Marsh illustration assignments for Life magazine.[130]

Soyer was a partial exception to this pattern, with his Russian Jewish immigrant's background and his social and financial history. Obliged to work at a series of menial jobs to make ends meet, he had neither the time nor the means to socialize or attend bowling parties. He made many of his contacts either through his twin brother, Moses, or at the John Reed Club. His first contact with the "Miller gang" came through Alexander Brook, whose support awed Soyer since he perceived Brook to be the "darling" of the American art scene in the late 1920s. Though he considered Brook a "wonderful, exuberant, and talented man and a good friend," the two men never socialized.[131] Instead, Soyer forged friendships limited to the space of the artist's studio. He posed for Brook, shared models, and, beginning in the 1930s, painted numerous portraits of his fellow artists, Marsh among them. The studio neutralized class and status distinctions that Soyer seemed to associate with the Miller group among the Whitney artists.[132] Despite being at the margins of their circle, Soyer knew their work through publications and exhibitions and respected it. He in turn received praise for his work from all quarters of the artistic and critical mainstream.[133]

In mainstream American art during the 1920s the critical terms characterizing the works of these artists, drawing them into American Scene painting, were continually being qualified. One anonymous reviewer of a 1927-28 traveling show mounted by the Whitney Studio Club struggled to place a number of Whitney painters; finally he described them as "intensely contemporary, but not radical, representing the conservative element of the left wing in American art."[134] The description was apt for this particular moment, one that signaled the beginning of a shift in the perception, criticism, and marketing of American art. Earlier in the wake of the 1913 Armory Show one group of critics, dealers, and artists generated interest in both post-impressionist painting and the formalist European theories of


modernism by which these works came to be understood. After World War I, in both literary and artistic circles, the cultural nationalist critics called for an indigenous modernism. Then, beginning around 1927, critics who discovered artists like Hopper and Charles Burchfield began to favor an uncritical "realist" art that was non-European in both content and style ("intensely contemporary, representing the conservative element of the left wing"). Finally, in the wake of the stock market crash, critics like Thomas Craven, the chauvinist exemplar of American Scene criticism, became openly hostile to European modernism; Craven faulted dealers who continued to sell what critics deemed inferior European art at the expense of American work. European modernism, critics like Craven argued, had run its course. Its formalist theories had served an educational purpose by showing artists new techniques. But now, especially in the disorienting times of the Depression, it was up to American artists to return to socially meaningful art that communicated important American values to a wide audience. Magazines like the Art Digest , the American Magazine of Art , and Creative Art proselytized the growing American Scene movement, which called for realism over abstraction and the depiction of everyday American subjects.[135] Reginald Marsh, in a rare statement—a 1933 essay on Edward Laning for Creative Art —adopted the rhetoric used by some of the nationalistic critics and verified the importance of the American Scene.

He [Laning] is singing The Sidewalks of New York to the tune of the Italian Renaissance—the national anthem of Fourteenth Street. Young enough, luckily, to have escaped the spell-binding attractions of bewitching boudoir painters of the "since Cézanne" regiments, or the National Academy banalities, or the aerial Stieglitz acrobats, he has, by virtue of the "pernicious" Miller influence, studied the more mature methods of the great schools, which beg to show us that, after all, there is a world of real people, both male and female—flesh, blood, elbows, facial expression, unbroken necks—a world that has more in it than rubber clouds, hors-d'oeuvres, cockeyed tables, splintery napkins, jittery Africans, one-sided women, and blandishing dealers who can hypnotize rich Americans into seeing purple paradises in picture puzzles.[136]

Because paintings by the Fourteenth Street School encompassed several generations of American art theory and practice, they exemplify the complex shifts and contradictions in the discourse of American Scene realism. While their works depict average women and men in the contemporary environment and combine old master traditions with American sources, there were two fundamentally different versions of what we might call Fourteenth Street realism. Kenneth Hayes Miller forged a classical realism with a related pedagogy in the 1920s and continued to practice it, with certain modifications, in the 1930s. This style manifested itself in early panoramas of Union Square by Bishop and Laning, produced at the end of the decade and during the first years of the Depression. Reginald Marsh and Raphael Soyer practiced an updated version of turn-of-the-century Ashcan school realism. These


two styles, and hence the representations of women, read differently from a 1930s and a late twentieth-century vantage point, and it is worthwhile to understand some of the contradictory implications.

In both his teaching and his painting, Miller embraced the academic view that all art should recall the great Western tradition by appropriating conventions from early works rather than by imitating nature.[137] Miller had come to artistic maturity in the 1890s and adopted the canon of old master painters taught him by his instructors Kenyon Cox and H. Siddons Mowbray. With few exceptions, they favored Italian Renaissance artists like Raphael, Michelangelo, and the Venetians Titian, Giorgione, and Veronese. Miller also professed admiration for Rubens, Rembrandt, Delacroix, Ingres, and, among more recent painters, Renoir.[138] These painters provided the direct prototypes for Miller's Fourteenth Street shoppers.

To make his classsicizing realism contemporary, however, Miller grafted a modernist rhetoric onto this essentially academic pedagogy. Although he saw himself as a painter of contemporary subjects rather than a modernist (a term he used narrowly, to describe European artists like Picasso and Matisse), he and other figure painters of his generation borrowed ideas, artistic models, and the rhetoric of early formalist critics like Bernard Berenson, Roger Fry, and Clive Bell to bring a more cautious strain of modernism to their figurative work. For these critics, and eventually for Miller, the term modernism no longer defined a simple art-for-art's-sake philosophy but centered instead on the creation of solid, "plastic," and "significant" form and a coherent design dependent solely on the internal structural logic of the painting.[139] The figure remained crucial, but both the subject and the expression of an emotional attitude toward that subject were secondary to the creation of form. Because figure paintings by Renoir and Cézanne were seen to continue the old master tradition both by restoring a structure and solidity lacking in the art of the impressionists and by concentrating on form independent of subject, these artists became models for Miller. Armed with formalist values, Miller looked more closely at Renoir's paintings. For Miller, Renoir's late work became the source through which he could enter the canon as a contemporary old master. Miller also reconsidered his Renaissance predecessors afresh and claimed, "What makes the old masters great is the rightness of their abstract design."[140]

A survey of Union Square paintings by Miller, Laning, and Bishop makes it clear that right design meant simple, legible, and geometrically balanced compositions filled with carefully modeled, weighty figures. The orientation of these nearly symmetrical paintings is usually frontal, and figures appear as if on a stage. In paintings of full-bodied shoppers, Miller frequently orchestrated the design around repeated volumetric curves and countercurves, using rounded hats and furs to echo the shape of the female form, or matching a mannequin with a shopper. Such shapes would be held in place by stabilizing verticals and horizontals, often in the form of columns or the frames of store windows; see, for example, Sidewalk Merchant (c. 1940; Fig.


Kenneth Hayes Miller, Sidewalk Merchant, c. 1940 (revision of In Fourteenth Street,
 1932). Oil on plywood, 36" × 455/8 ". The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M.
Huntington Art Gallery.

2.1 and Plate 1). In Dante and Virgil in Union Square , Isabel Bishop scrupulously divided and subdivided her panoramic composition into zones, each containing a separate unit of her subject (Fig. 2.2). Laning used color to help structure his self-consciously formalized designs. In Fourteenth Street (Fig. 2.3), the pinks, blues, and reds in the limited Sienese-derived palette are placed at equidistant intervals to create an even rhythm of figures moving across the picture plane.[141] In all these works, because of the order and simplicity of the composition and the legibility of the design, the viewer is made aware of the formal qualities. The demonstration of a studied design was one of the major aesthetic aims of the classical strain of Fourteenth Street realism.

Miller's pedagogy and practice can be read as a historical palimpsest, beginning around the time of the Armory Show (where Miller exhibited four paintings in the American section), with each "layer" corresponding to a particular historical moment and satisfying a variety of sometimes contradictory critical voices. Those


Isabel Bishop, Dante and Virgil in Union Square, c. 1932. Oil on canvas, 27" × 52".
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington.

Edward Laning, Fourteenth Street, 1931. Tempera on canvas, 30" × 40". Collection
of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Kenneth Hayes Miller, Sidewalk Merchant, c. 1940 (revision of In Fourteenth Street,
1932). Oil on plywood, 36" × 455/8 ". The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M.
Huntington Art Gallery.

Kenneth Hayes Miller, Department Store Shoppers, 1930. Oil on canvas, 24" × 171/8 ".
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution.

Reginald Marsh, In Fourteenth Street, 1934. Egg tempera on composition board, 357/8 "
× 393/4 ". Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Reginald Marsh, Show Window, 1934. Egg tempera on board, 42" × 34". The Saint Louis
Art Museum.

Raphael Soyer, Window Shoppers, 1938. Oil on canvas, 36" × 24". New
Jersey State Museum, Trenton.

Raphael Soyer, Shop Girls, 1936. Oil on canvas, 30" × 40". Collection of Babette B.

Isabel Bishop, Tidying Up, c. 1938. Oil on canvas, 15" × 111/2 ". Indianapolis Museum
of Art.

Isabel Bishop, At the Noon Hour, 1939. Tempera and pencil on composition board, 25"
× 18". Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts.


who cautiously advocated modernism after the Armory Show adopted the evolutionary model of the show's organizers, who emphasized modernism's links to the past and its adherence to unchanging principles of design rather than its radical newness. In "Evolution, Not Revolution in Art," for example, the critic Christian Brinton stressed the concomitant need in art for progress and respect for tradition—values Miller promulgated in naming canonical works and in supporting unchanging formal values.[142] By the 1920s, critics seeking an indigenous base for art broadened the meaning of modernism to include both abstract and representational works featuring contemporary American subjects portrayed according to accepted formal standards. Staunch advocates of modernism, like the critic Paul Rosenfeld, praised Miller's art. Then, in 1929, the curators of Nineteen Living American Painters at the new Museum of Modern Art chose Miller's work for exhibition. In making their selection, they overlooked Miller's academicism and emphasized the modernist credentials of his classical realism.[143]

Another group of critics who favored representational American art but whose anti-European and anti-modern views grew stronger with the Depression, often reiterated the artist's responsibility to the public. Their ideas were initially given currency by well-known conservative turn-of-the-century academic critics. Miller's teacher Kenyon Cox and the critic Frank Jewett Mather disdained what they believed was an excessive individualism in modern abstraction, which kept the public from understanding art. Mather argued that the artist must heighten his sensitivity to the public and must make art according to accepted codes and conventions. In short, the artist must work in a recognizable academic or old master tradition.[144] In all his teaching, but especially in his mural-painting classes beginning in 1927, Miller similarly argued for legibility and against artistic individualism; indeed, personal expression in art should give way to form. In this way Miller linked modernism to an anti-modern justification for representational American art.

In favoring form over individual response to subject matter, Miller opposed the central tenet of Ashcan school realism preached by Robert Henri and inherited and practiced by Reginald Marsh and Raphael Soyer. Marsh's and Soyer's updated Ashcan school realism also approached the contemporary scene through an old master tradition. Having been trained in the 1920s, these artists, like Miller, concerned themselves with pictorial order and coherent design as major goals of making art.[145] But their work was linked to the emotional "Art for Life's sake" vision of Ashcan painters like Sloan and Henri as much as to the academicism of American Renaissance painters like Cox.[146] Marsh and Soyer were less theoretical in their approach and worked more often from models than from a series of formal principles.[147] Their concern to respond as individuals to contemporary life made them less dependent on the self-consciously applied formalism favored by Miller, Bishop, and Laning. Their position on the twin heritage of "formalism" and "emotionalism" approximated that of Forbes Watson, who favored a balance between the intellectual and the emotional (with the latter more important). An admirer of


Henri, Watson stressed the importance of the artist's connection and response to life over a response to art. At the same time, he argued that the response must be made through an interpretation of form, color, and design that would demonstrate the artist's reinterpretation of tradition.[148]

Within this configuration of ideals and attitudes, Marsh and Soyer looked to different old master sources and developed different styles of painting, especially in the Fourteenth Street images of the 1930s. Marsh, who had been trained as an illustrator, like his Ashcan predecessors, depicted American city life, seeking to capture the vibrancy and the energetic pace of its rhythms. To infuse his crowded street scenes with movement, he looked more to Michelangelo and Rubens than to Raphael.[149] He exaggerated movement by personalizing Rubens's drawing style; using tempera with a draftsman's touch, he created intricate patterns of choppy strokes overlaying patchy areas of thinly applied color. He used tempera to achieve effects different from those usually sought by artists working in this unspontaneous and craftsmanlike medium, associated with the anonymous treatment of Renaissance panel paintings. Painting quickly, he achieved a sketchiness of style that recalled the looseness and painterly surface of the Ashcan painters.

Soyer, unlike Marsh and the other Fourteenth Street realists, made close-up studies of individual moods and feelings, drawing from American and European painters of psychological portraits like Eakins and Degas. Critics frequently described his work as naturalistic. He developed a compositional format that brought the subject close to the viewer, placing ranks of city dwellers or individual sitters in shallow spaces close to the picture plane to fill virtually the entire composition. He chose casual poses and haphazard arrangements of figures, and he applied his paint with a blurred softness different from Marsh's harsher sketchiness. Using stylistic conventions that recall Degas, Soyer scrutinized the ennui of city dwellers or the barrenness of the urban scene during the Depression.

Many of these stylistic distinctions appear in works produced during the early years of the Depression. In 1932, for example, Miller and Marsh both painted images of Fourteenth Street shoppers outside Fourteenth Street stores (Figs. 2.1 [Plate 1] and 2.4). Like Miller, Marsh adopted a planimetric composition and worked with crowds of human figures. But there the similarity ended. Where Miller's image is calm, ordered, and lucid—his matrons all the same, his forms clearly demarcated by heavy contours, his illumination even—Marsh's crowd is all confusion. Dozens of women and men of all shapes, sizes, and ethnic types are packed together on a shallow sidewalk, awaiting the sale boldly advertised in the signage. These figures are in constant, even violent, motion, filled with baroque exuberance. In the foreground, one young woman leaps off the sidewalk like an Olympic javelin thrower. The entire picture is made even more active through Marsh's jittery calligraphic line and his patchy chiaroscuro. And his palette, in imitation of old master paintings, is primarily golden browns and grays, with only small areas of brighter


Reginald Marsh, Fourteenth Street, 1932. Tempera. Present location unknown.

color. Though Marsh's energetic scene is harsher in style and more confusing in composition than John Sloan's earlier paintings of everyday street life in lower Manhattan, it recalls these works and resembles Sloan's later images of Fourteenth Street's Tammany Hall and Olympic Burlesque (Fig. 2.5).

Soyer's naturalism contrasts with Bishop's classicism in the two painters' neighborhood panoramas, Fourteenth Street (1935; Fig. 2.6) and Dante and Virgil in Union Square (Fig. 2.2 ). In Fourteenth Street Soyer captured a segment of the street under construction, a view out his studio window.[150] The street and the building site with its tiny workers, dilapidated shed, and littered timbers recedes on an angle, in an arrangement less symmetrical than Bishop's carefully measured planimetric design. Thanks to Soyer's painterly brushstroke and darker palette, the buildings seem dingy and the overall facade of the street remains unharmonious. Streaks of paint suggest the contours of buildings silhouetted against the sky but do not delineate the heroic skyline usually associated with Manhattan that Bishop's work celebrates. The white building adjacent to the construction site bears an unsightly scar where the lower stories of windows have been blocked off. Soyer seems unafraid to show both change and decay. His image suggests a city in constant transition rather than one that has been momentarily stilled and flooded with sparkling light to mark its prosperity.

Both versions of Fourteenth Street realism can be understood as part of the figurative version of American Scene painting. The classical realism of Miller and his students Bishop and Laning in their early work was characteristic of and formed


John Sloan, The Wigwam, Old Tammany Hall, 1934. Oil on compressed board, 30" ×
 25". The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

by artistic and critical values in the 1920s, an era of relative prosperity and normalcy. The clear ordered expression of these painters generalized the participants rather than focusing on their individual humanity. It was a style admirably suited to embody the kinds of business values promoted by Fourteenth Street's commercial advocates in the 1920s and Miller's celebration of the matronly shopper.


Raphael Soyer, Fourteenth Street, c. 1935. Oil on canvas, 191/8 " × 271/8 ". Collection
of Leo S. Ullman, New York.

Reginald Marsh and Raphael Soyer developed styles that were energetic or emotional rather than classicizing; these painters were more inclusive than Miller and Bishop in their portrayal of Fourteenth Street subject matter. Though both retained conventions from the figurative traditions they learned in the 1920s at the Art Students League, their Fourteenth Street-Union Square paintings were formed by the increased social awareness, concern, and anxiety of the 1930s more than the idealized optimism of the 1920s. To the extent that their art, unlike that of the social realists, offers no overt challenge to the economic or social order, Marsh and Soyer remain within the American Scene tradition. But because their images of Fourteenth Street capture either its tawdry quarters, its unemployed men, or its radical constituencies, these artists engage the darker, more anxious, and finally more socially involved side of that tradition. As a consequence, whereas Miller's, Bishop's, and Laning's images unequivocally celebrate life in Union Square, Marsh's and Soyer's images do not. Instead, their paintings capture ambiguities and inconsistencies in the Fourteenth Street milieu as it was perceived in the twenties and thirties. That neighborhood and its representations are the subject of the following chapter.


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