A chapter of US culture which was denominated as American modernism, arose from changes in the society as well as culture at the beginning of the 20th century, reaching its apex between World War I and World War II. The basis of the movement came up from the rejection of the thinking related to the concept of Enlightenment, rejecting rational and non-emotional view of the world. Rather a better way related to representation of reality of a new and industrialized world was to take place in works of modernists. The modernism tended to abstraction, reacting against historicism as well as institutionalization of art and also benefiting from the wealth of the cultures brought by immigrants (Huggins, 1971). The reinvention of the abstraction was also founded in the widespread utopianism, which combined with the skeptical acceptance of the science and technology. Abstraction thus becomes a way how to break with the tradition of European art conceptualization. Modernist painters such as Joseph Stella, Georgia O’Keeffe or Arthur Dove belong to the principal representatives of the modernist school (Clairborne, 2006).
As far as the Ashcan school and its relation with modernism is concerned, it could be well said that the arrival of modernism has ended the Ashcan chapter, which became old-fashioned by 1930. The Ashcan school differed from modernist in many ways, as it was portraying the topics of daily life, often in a naturalist way, using robust brushwork as well as darker juxtapositions and was devoid of the abstraction employed by modernists. Famous representatives of the Ashcan school are W. Glackens, J. Sloan or R Henri (Zelinsky, 1973).

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The retrieval of the Ashcan school during the times of arising modernism thus speaks of a rapid differentiation of the US society in relation to the past traditions and coming of new age, with fast changing structure of the US society. My personal impression of both schools is that both schools are important in their juxtaposition, symbolizing the ever opening drift between society of the past and society of the modern times and I therefore appreciate to perceive both representatives of the abovementioned schools in parallel.

  • Claiborne, S. (2006). The Irresistible Revolution. New York: Zondervan.
  • Huggins, N. (1971). Harlem Renaissance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Zelinsky, W. (1973). The Cultural Geography of the United States. Trenton: Prentice Hall.