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Studying for a test? Prepare with these 5 lessons on Art between the wars: the avant-garde and the rise of totalitarianism.
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Video transcript
(jazzy music) Voiceover: We're in the Brooklyn Museum looking at George Bellows' Pennsylvania Station Excavation circa 1907-8. Voiceover: Bellows is I think a really fabulous painter and a member of a group of painters who were usually referred to as the ashcan. Voiceover: Why did they get that name? Voiceover: That's a pretty nasty name, isn't it? Voiceover: It is. Garbage can. Voiceover: Their work was seen to be sooty and gritty and dark. What they were was a small group of realists that was known as The Eight. This was a group of American artists that focused in New York for the most part; painted the world around them. That was a fairly radical idea. They didn't do it like the American impressionists who mimicked the colors and light of Paris. This was about New York at its real industrial moment, when New York itself was beginning to flex its muscles, when it was putting itself on the map. This is the first decade of the 20th century. Voiceover: So not looking back at Europe to generate a style, but trying to create an American. It's funny to me how American art is so much always in dialogue with Europe. Voiceover: Of course, this is also, but just not as clearly in the directness of that reference. Voiceover: This is just as amazing as a document to me of what Seventh Avenue was like. Voiceover: This is a moment when the technology was steam, and you had these steam powered diggers excavating this enormous area in order to put Pennsylvania Station here. You actually see the city rise beyond, this new industrial city. There's something almost Dante-like about this. It's the pit of hell in a sense. You've got fires burning, and smoke. Voiceover: Images of industrial scenes always evoke, those kinds of scenes. Voiceover: But this is finding beauty there, right? This is creating a kind of dramatic beauty out of this grit, out of this filth, really. It's so stark because you have the sooted snow below, you have the terrible mall that has been carved out of the earth. Then you've got this sort of garish sky. What I find really interesting, in contrast, Pennsylvania Station is thIs very important railway and station, and the president of that station was the brother of Mary Cassatt. In fact, Mary Cassatt's fortune is largely based on this. Here we have a representation of this grit that is this new American power, and yet the man for whom this is being built's sister is in Paris doing really important things, or had been in the past decades, but nevertheless with the kind of delicacy and the kind of refinement that is completely absent in the Bellows. Voiceover: But it kind of does remind me of the ways in which money, and the monied industrialists of the early 20th century were buying art and investing in art. Voiceover: That's true. Although, you know what's interesting is Bellows didn't really find that much favor among the collectors. Voiceover: Oh, doesn't surprise me with pictures that look like this. Voiceover: It was really Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney who would eventually create her museum, who was the main patron of these artists. She was buying them up. She thought that there should be a market, and she was an important promoter of their work. Voiceover: Patrons can be very important. (jazzy music)