Jody Patterson, Terra Foundation Teaching Fellow in American Art, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Ecole Normale Supérieure, and Université Paris-Ouest Nanterre La Défense
Within the field of art history the scholarly territory is often carved up into discrete chronological, national, and stylistic categories and is replete with centre and margins. These lines are demarcated with particular force and clarity within the study of historical American art and culture. The most intractable of these art-historical boundaries is the year 1945 – the line separating pre- and post-World War II art and the temporal barrier that divides the professional terrain between ‘Americanists’ on the one side and ‘Modernists’ on the other. Relatedly, though not identically, this line has formal and stylistic implications as well and is widely understood to separate academic realism from innovative abstraction. This paper addresses the study of pre-1945 modernism in relations to these issues.