A Problem for Critics
Exam 1 will open Friday, September 20 and must be submitted by 11:59 PM on Monday, September 23











Germany invades Poland
England & France declare war on Germany
Germany begins gasing the mentally ill and disabled to death in a pilot program for the extermination of Jewish people.
1939 - 1945
WWII - the largest and deadliest war in history with over 73 million deaths (including 22 to 25 million military casualties and about 6 million civillian Jewish deaths)
Germany conquers Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.
German invasion of Soviet Union. More than 500,000 are killed by mobile units.
Beginning in September, people designated as Jewish in German held territories are required to wear a yellow star.
Experiments in mass killing methods at Auschwitz begin. More than two million people will be killed at Auschwitz alone.
Japanese attack Pearl Harbor
Germany declares war on the United States
The U.S. declares war on Germany and Japan
U.S. forces about 120,000 Japanese Americans to relocate in isolated, remote internment camps.
Soon after, Canada and Mexico will also inter citizens of Japanese descent.











An American B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in one of the final chapters of World War II. It killed an estimated 140,000 by December that year.
Hiroshima after atomic bombing

Hiroshima Museum of Science and Industry, 1945











On August 9, the port city of Nagasaki was also bombed, killing an estimated 70,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later -- on August 15, 1945 -- [arguably] bringing the war to a close.


Nuclear bombing of Nagasaki,  August 9, 1945.
Nagasaki before and after nuclear bombing, 1945.











Lee Miller, Buchenwald, April 1945. 
Ruins of the Dresden ruins of the Frauenkirche after allied fire bombing, 1945.











After WWII

United States
  • Left in ruins - few resources to rebuild or get "back to life"
  • Housing and construction boom nurtered by GI returns
  • Many countries remained politically divided
  • Country invigorated by new found strength
  • Numerous avant-garde artists had immigrated to the U.S.
  • Sense of artistic community blossoms in NY
The Kissing Sailor, or
"The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture"
Alfred Eisenstaedt, V.J. Day, 1945.











Post WWII Suburban Ranch Home










Consider that these two American works were made in 1948 and purchased by MoMA in 1949.
Andrew Wyeth, Christina's World, 1948.
Jackson Pollock, Number 1 A, 1948.











Spring 1945 "A Problem for Critics"
exhibition at the 67 Gallery
Included works by: Arshile Gorky, Joan Miro, Adolph Gottleib, Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, and Jackson Pollock
Gallery owner Howard Putzel, declared in a press release for the exhibition, “I believe we see real American painting beginning now.”
Jackson Pollock, Moon Woman, 1942.




















Abstract Expressionism = term used to describe a wide variety of work produced in New York
between 1940 and 1960
  • The term was first used in Germany to describe works by Wassily Kandinsky.
  • The New Yorker's art critic, Robert Coates applied the term to newly emerging works in 1946.
  • The name acknowledges, two important strains of modern art:

Abstraction = emphasized a non-representational, formalist approach

Expressionism = sought emotional responses from both the artist and the viewer

Lee Krasner, Cornucopia, 1958.











The Irascibles

"The Irascibles" from 1950, published in Life Magazine, January 15, 1951.


From left to right seated:  Theodoros Stamos, Jimmy Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, James Brooks, Mark Rothko;
Standing:  Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, Hedda Sterne, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin











Franz Kline, Cardinal, c. 1950.
Isamu Noguchi, The Kiss, 1945.

Twilight Sounds

Grace Hartigan, Autumn Harvest, 1959.
Norman Lewis, Twilight Sounds, 1947.











no 2

Characteristics of the New York School:

  • Interest in Surrealist automatist techniques
  • Influenced by the Mexican muralists
  • "Modern Man" = notion that man is fundamentally irrational and driven by unknowable forces from within and without
  • Participated in the Federal Art Project
  • Insisted on the individual worth of each of their expressions
Clyfford Still, 1947-R, No. 2, 1947.