Many of the artists in the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show went on to revolutionize art. William Glackens, on the other hand… he just kept painting

Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

IC_MEIS_GLACK_AP_001In the early days of the 20th century, Picasso met some rich and careless Americans. “These folks,” Dave Hickey wrote in his book The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty, “are no longer building gazebos and placing symboliste Madonnas in fern-choked grottos. They are running with the bulls — something Pablo can understand. They are measuring their power and security by their ability to tolerate high-velocity temporal change, high levels of symbolic distortion, and maximum psychic discontinuity.”

In Hickey’s version of the story of Modernism, it is these rich and careless Americans who finally shook the Europeans out of the torpor of late 19th century art making. The Americans were ready to face high-velocity temporal change and all the psychic discontinuity that goes with it. They were ready to face the Machine age, the Information age, the age of all things melting into air. Picasso’s portrait of prostitutes in a proto-Cubist tableau (les demoiselles d’Avignon) was, thus, made primarily for the rough and ready Americans who were prepared to understand such a picture.

There is truth to Hickey’s story. Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo were hosting their salon in Paris during the days when Picasso was looking for a new way to paint. The American expat community was restless, detached, and given to aesthetic excitability. The rich Americans dropping in from across the pond added fuel to the fire. They stirred money into a pot already filled with ambition and artistic discontent. A bomb was going to go off, and finally it did. The Steins provided the gunpowder. Picasso lit the fuse. Marcel Duchamp threw the bomb onto center stage.

The funny thing about this story is that the Americans who — in Hickey’s version — pushed Modernism along its course, seemed ill-prepared for the results that finally landed back upon their own shores. The landing came in 1913, at the famous Armory Show in New York City. At that show, Americans confronted European works of art that seemed to have metastasized dangerously from Picasso’s proto-Cubist ladies from Avignon just a few years earlier. Here were wild attacks of color from the Fauvists, machine-obsessed explosive paintings from the Futurists, extreme acts of spatial deconstruction from a now fully developed Cubism. And, of course, Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase.

More here.