Artists on the Left - Hemingway, Andrew - Yale University Press
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Artists on the Left
American Artists and the Communist Movement, 1926–1956
This remarkable book is the first to examine in abundant detail the relation between visual artists and the American Communist movement during the twentieth century. Andrew Hemingway charts the rise and decline of the Communist Party’s influence on art in the United States from the Party’s dramatic rise in prestige during the Great Depression to its effective demise in the 1950s. Offering a full account of how left-wing artists responded to the Party’s various policy shifts over these years, Hemingway shows that the Communist Party exerted a powerful force in American culture, even after the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.
The author scrutinizes the works of an array of leftist artists, many of great interest but largely forgotten today. He demonstrates that American art produced within the Communist Party’s orbit was far more diverse and had a much more complex relationship with modernism than has been previously understood. Refusing to march in lockstep to Party requirements, artists and critics in and around the Party accepted no single aesthetic line and engaged in heated debates. Hemingway offers radical new interpretations of some familiar works, reassesses the role of the John Reed Clubs and the work of artists in the federal art programs, and revises accepted thinking about art in the United States during the Cold War. In short, he offers a distinguished and original political history that recovers the rich artistic and intellectual legacy of the American left.
Andrew Hemingway is reader in history of art, University College London.