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Life Magazine and the Abstract Expressionists, 1948-51: A Historiographic Study of a Late Bohemian Enterprise

Bradford R. Collins
The Art Bulletin
Vol. 73, No. 2 (Jun., 1991), pp. 283-308
Published by: College Art Association
DOI: 10.2307/3045794
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3045794
Page Count: 26
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Life Magazine and the Abstract Expressionists, 1948-51: A Historiographic Study of a Late Bohemian Enterprise
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Abstract

The general literature on the Abstract Expressionists presents them as archetypal bohemians: high-minded emigrants from an unsympathetic, materialistic culture. Life magazine is frequently cited for its insensitive antagonism to them and to modern art in general. A review of Life's writings on art around 1950 reveals, instead, the magazine's essentially supportive program on behalf of the vanguard tradition. Furthermore, an examination of the behavior of the artists at this time reveals that they were more accommodating toward prevailing cultural values than either they or their chroniclers have acknowledged. This article analyzes the motives behind both facets of this will to fit events to a mythic shape: the maneuverings of the artists and their critical supporters and the later participation of scholars.

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