Armory Show  

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"Because of their subject matter, which shocked the academic painters and the public as well, the whole group associated with Sloan and Bellows was contemptuously dubbed the ashcan school. Of all the group Bellows perhaps plunged most wholeheartedly into the contemporary scene, and because of his forceful personality frequently selected vigorous and dramatic subjects, such as A Stag at Sharkey’s, in which one sees the vigor of his brushwork, a technical use of pigment consistent with the energy of his personality, strongly contrasting values, and accomplished composition. It was members of this group who were responsible for bringing to the United States the International Exhibition of Modern Art (known as the Armory Show) of 1913, a show which was a definite landmark in the modern movement on this side of the Atlantic." --Gardner's Art Through the Ages (1926) by Helen Gardner

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The 1913 Armory Show, also known as the International Exhibition of Modern Art, was a show organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors in 1913. It was the first large exhibition of modern art in America, as well as one of the many exhibitions that have been held in the vast spaces of U.S. National Guard armories.

The three-city exhibition started in New York City's 69th Regiment Armory, on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, from February 17 until March 15, 1913. The exhibition went on to the Art Institute of Chicago and then to The Copley Society of Art in Boston, where, due to a lack of space, all the work by American artists was removed.

The show became an important event in the history of American art, introducing Americans, who were accustomed to realistic art, to the experimental styles of the European avant garde, including Fauvism and Cubism. The show served as a catalyst for American artists, who became more independent and created their own "artistic language."


News reports and reviews were filled with accusations of quackery, insanity, immorality, and anarchy, as well as parodies, caricatures, doggerels and mock exhibitions. About the modern works, President Theodore Roosevelt declared, "That's not art!!!"

Among the scandalously radical works of art, pride of place goes to Marcel Duchamp's Cubist/Futurist style Nude Descending a Staircase, painted the year before, in which he expressed motion with successive superimposed images, as in motion pictures. An art critic for the New York Times wrote that the work resembled "an explosion in a shingle factory," and cartoonists satirized the piece.

However, the purchase of Paul Cézanne's Hill of the Poor (View of the Domaine Saint-Joseph) by the Metropolitan Museum of Art signaled an integration of modernism into the established New York museums, but among the younger artists represented, Cézanne was already an established master.

Duchamp's brother, who went by the "nom de guerre" Jacques Villon, also exhibited, sold all his Cubist paintings and struck a sympathetic chord with New York collectors who supported him in the following decades.

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