Art in America 1909-1959," is the first exhibition devoted exclusively to the theme of American Art to be shown at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art. It will open on September 10, 2004, and close on October 15, 2004.

The show will feature 54 works by 46 artists, and is intended to represent a sampling of the stylistic range and diversity of American art over a forty-year period, from 1909 to 1959. Several artists in the show remain dedicated to the tradition of figurative painting, each of whom developed styles that reflect their unique vision of the world: Paul Cadmus, Arthur B. Davies, Jared French, Samuel Halpert, Earl Horter, Walt Kuhn, Jack Levine, Wallace Putnam, Charles Sheeler, Edward Steichen, and George Tooker. Others pursue a more abstract vision: Manierre Dawson, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Katherine S. Dreier, Werner Drewes, Albert Eugene Gallatin, Carl Holty, and Ad Reinhardt. Many artists consciously sought inspiration from various European styles: the single work in this exhibition by Charles Shaw, for example, is unimaginable without the precedence of Dada collage, whereas the magical realism of Aaron Bohrod, Leon Kelly, Man Ray, Kay Sage, and Florine Stettheimer can be traced to sources in European Surrealism.
Among the highlights of the show are Avatar, a painting by Arthur B. Davies that is typical of his romantic dream visions, and The Breakfast Table, a bright and colorful early painting by Stuart Davis that belies his knowledge of Synchromism. Until recently, Avatar—the name given to describe the descent of a god or goddess to earth—was thought to date from a later period, but it has been recently discovered that the painting was included in Davis’s first major show at the Macbeth Gallery in 1909 (from which it was likely acquired by his lifelong patron, Lilly P. Bliss). The title of Davis’s The Breakfast Table accurately describes its subject—a circular table upon which rest a crossed knife and fork on a plate, and hovering above, a coffee pot in elevation—but the table top is tilted to such an acute fontal position, that, to today’s viewers, the overall composition bears an uncanny (but, of course, entirely coincidentally) resemblance to The Figure Five by Jasper Johns.
A number of the artists included in this show are known only to specialists in the field of American art. Marjorie Conant Bush-Brown (1885-1978), for example, is today comparatively unknown, but she attained a certain level of recognition with Georgia Youth, a painting included in the present exhibition that was first shown at the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1940 (the Western World’s Fair), which traveled to Buenos Aires, San Paolo, and many of South America’s major cities. This painting captures the quiet power and serenity of a young African American, who, seated in a
chair, looks relaxed as he stares directly at the viewer, suggesting, perhaps, that he no longer fears the years of oppression his forefathers were forced to endure. Witold Gordon (1880s-1968) was known for his illustrations, which appeared in magazines like Vanity Fair, Vogue and The New Yorker (for which he executed eight covers, from 1944-48). He was also a well-known mural painter in the 1930s, having decorated several rooms at Radio City Music Hall and the RCA (now GE) Building in Manhattan. The two still lifes included in this exhibition are examples of Gordon’s proficiency as an easel painter, reflecting his ability to simultaneously capture and convey the grandeur inherent in simple artifacts. Finally, Herman Trunk (1894-1963), an artist who was fairly well-known in the 1920s and 30s, fell into almost total obscurity after his death, only to be resuscitated when his work was discovered by the American commercial market in the late 1980s. He is represented in the exhibition by a magnificent watercolor, one that displays a level of technical execution comparable only to the works of Charles Demuth.
In the exhibition, works of art will be hung "salon style," that is to say, double and, in some cases, triple hung. To the extent possible, all works will be arranged in strict chronological order, with the idea of displaying the complete panoply of American art in one of the richest and most diverse periods of its history.