The pull of Europe has been from the beginning one of the enduring forces in American art. American artists have travelled to Europe, or otherwise availed themselves of its resources, to help overcome feelings of cultural insufficiency. Europe’s past, with its great artistic traditions, as well as certain elements in the contemporary life of art, served as a model and an inspiration for artists who felt that their native culture lacked the requisite weight and resonance. This, at least, was a common attitude from colonial times through the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, when the artistic innovations of the European avant-garde replaced the appeal of tradition as the principal reason for looking to Europe for leadership.

But there were always American artists who had a very different view. For them the artist’s task was to reveal and celebrate what was genuinely American about American life, and to do so...

 
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