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Things of the Spirit

Art and Healing in the American Body Politic, 1929-1941

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George Van Cleve Speer

In the 1930s, the crises brought about by the Depression, climatic devastation, and the rearmament of Europe led Americans from all walks of life to believe that capitalism and technology had synthesized into a monstrous force that threatened the human race. And yet, this chaotic decade also witnessed an unprecedented level of support, both rhetorical and institutional, for the importance of art in the lives of everyday Americans. This book investigates that paradox, asking why, when simple survival presented its own obstacles, our historically pragmatic culture began to define art as a necessity rather than a luxury. To answer this question, the book traces the symbolism of the embattled and recuperative body across a broad spectrum of American culture in the Machine Age. The book situates this symbolism within the commentary of artists, novelists, critics, and educators who trusted in the power of artistic expression and the experience of art to restore the health of the body politic.

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Acknowledgments vii

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Acknowledgments Figure 1! Winslow Homer ! ! Old Mill (The Morning Bell) ! ! Morning Bell ! ! Yale University Art Gallery ! ! Bequest of Stephen Carlton Clark, ! ! B.A. 1903 Figure 2! Winslow Homer ! ! The Veteran in a New Field ! ! Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot ! ! (1876–1967), 1967 Figure 3! Thomas Pollock Anshutz, 1851–1912 ! ! The Ironworkers’ Noontime, 1880 ! ! Oil on canvas, 17 x 23 7/8 in. (43.2 x 60.6cm) ! ! Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, ! ! Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd., ! ! 1979.7.4 Figure 7! Joseph Stella ! ! Voice of the City of New York Interpreted (detail, ! ! The Brooklyn Bridge (The Bridge) ! ! 1920–22 ! ! Oil and tempera on canvas ! ! Purchase 1937 Felix Fuld Bequest Fund ! ! 37.288 Figure 10! General Motors–Futurama–Visitors in ! ! Moving Chairs Viewing Exhibit ! ! New York World’s Fair 1939–1940 Records, ! ! Manuscripts and Archives Division, ! ! The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox ! ! and Tilden Foundations Figure 16! Henry Billings, American, 1901–1987 ! ! Men and Machines, 1941 ! ! Lithograph ! ! 35.9 x 40 cm (14 1/8 x 15 3/4 in.) ! ! Museum of Fine Arts, Boston ! ! Fund in memory of ! ! Horatio Greenough Curtis ! ! ! 2002.662 Figure 20! Douglass Crockwell ! ! Paper Workers ! ! 1964.1.152 ! ! Smithsonian American Art Museum, ! ! Transfer from the U.S. Department ! ! of Labor Figure 28! Charles Sheeler ! ! Steam Turbine ! ! 1939 ! ! Oil on canvas ! ! Collection of The Butler Institute ! ! of American Art ! ! Youngstown, Ohio Figure 29! Charles Sheeler ! ! Suspended Power, 1939 ! ! Oil on canvas ! ! Overall: 33 x 26 x 2 in. (83.82 x 66.04 x 5.08 cm) ! ! Framed dimensions: 39 3/8 x 32 1/4 x 2...

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