More than twenty years ago—in the fall of 1960—Martin L. Friedman organized an exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis that significantly altered our perspective on American art between the two World Wars. It was called “The Precisionist View in American Art,” and it consisted of paintings by, among others, George Ault, Ralston Crawford, Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, Elsie Driggs, Louis Guglielmi, Louis Lozowick, Georgia O’Keeffe, Morton L. Schamberg, Charles Sheeler, and Niles Spencer. Some of these artists had long been highly regarded, of course. A few were established classics. Others—George Ault and Elsie Driggs, for example—Mr. Friedman had rescued from an undeserved obscurity. Whatever their degree of fame or obscurity, however, most of the painters represented in the “Precisionist View” exhibition were no longer very much discussed by critics,...


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