At The Phillips Collection: “Made in the USA”

American art before 1950 is all but omitted from the Western canon. Frequently perceived as an obscure assortment of simple colonial landscape painters, would-be impressionist yokels and winsome expatriates of voracious appetite and meager consequence, there was little recognition for American artists until after the migration of European progressives fleeing the Second World War. It reads in the history books as if one day a roiling storm of artistic breakthroughs blew across the Atlantic Ocean and began raining artistic innovation along the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Undergirding the breakout of Abstract Expressionism and America’s ensuing artistic prominence is a clear debt to centuries of European progress. However, frequently misunderstood and typically neglected are the regional artists and styles that helped mould and prepare the American artistic landscape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

One of the major champions of America’s early artistic identity was Duncan Phillips (1886 –

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