[ONLINE] 1940s in Focus: American Art during the Decade of Transition - The Courtauld Institute of Art

[ONLINE] 1940s in Focus: American Art during the Decade of Transition

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Conference, Modern and Contemporary - Centre for American Art, Research Forum

[ONLINE] 1940s in Focus: American Art during the Decade of Transition

Peter Blume, 'The Rock', 1944/48. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Edgar Kaufmann Jr.

Speakers Include:

  • Angela Miller - Washington University in St. Louis
  • Jody Patterson - Ohio State University
  • John Fagg - University of Birmingham
  • Marci Kwon - Stanford University
  • Ellery E. Foutch - Middlebury College
  • Jonathan Black - Kingston School of Art
  • Louis Shadwick - The Courtauld
  • Andrew Witt - Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
  • Jason Hill - University of Delaware
  • Heather Campbell Coyle - Delaware Art Museum
  • Laura Bruni - Tate Liverpool
  • Alexander Nemerov - Stanford University

Organised by

  • Tatsiana Zhurauliova - Associate Researcher, LARCA (Laboratoire de Recherche sur les Cultures Anglophones), Université de Paris
  • Professor David Peters Corbett - Director, Centre for American Art, The Courtauld

Ticket / entry details:

BOOKING ESSENTIAL Details will be sent to all registered attendees

This is a live online event.  

Please register for more details. The platform and log in details will be sent to attendees at least 48 hours before the event. Please note that registration closes 30 minutes before the event start time.  

If you have not received the log in details or have any further queries, please contact researchforum@courtauld.ac.uk. 

The concept for this conference is motivated by a singular assumption—that the 1940s was one of the most significant decades in the history of the United States and that it dramatically transformed the country’s self-image and position in the world. The decade, which saw the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War, has been the focus of numerous scholarly publications in the fields of U.S. history, political science, globalization studies, and, most recently, literary and cultural studies. Yet the scholarship on American art and visual culture still tends to fraction the decade through the pre-1945 and post-1945 divide. While regarding 1945 as a pivotal moment, these accounts focus on what preceded or followed the 1940s, whether it is the early-twentieth-century modernism, socially engaged art of the 1930s, or the rise of the New York School and the turn towards the postmodernist paradigm. As a result, the 1940s remain an elusive decade in the historiography of American art, although a number of recent publications, primarily focused on individual artists working at the time, have proposed fresh perspectives on the period. This conference will contribute to the process of reconceptualization of the 1940s by bringing together scholars and curators who offer new approaches to thinking about the decade. In particular, the conference will give texture to the lived experience of the decade by addressing hitherto little known or understudied artistic communities across the country, as well as their networks of patronage, exchange, and collaboration.


Thursday, June 3, 2021:

14:00 – Introduction:

David Peters Corbett, Centre for American Art, The Courtauld

Tatsiana Zhurauliova, LARCA, Université de Paris

14:15 – Plenary Address I:

Angela Miller, Washington University in St. Louis, Unbounded: The Expanded Worlds of the 1940s

15:15 – Panel 1: The Politics of Representation

Jody Patterson, Ohio State University, Black Lives / White Gaze: Robert Gwathmey in the South

John Fagg, University of Birmingham, Ben Shahn: After the Retrospective and in Response to Disaster

16:15 – Break 

16:30 – Panel 2: Agency, Subjectivity, and the Limits of the Self

Marci Kwon, Stanford University, Enchantments: Joseph Cornell and American Modernism

Ellery E. Foutch, Middlebury College, Painting Pin-Ups and Calendar Girls

17:30 – Ends


Friday, June 4, 2021:

14:00 – Welcome

14:15 – Panel 3: Alternative Genealogies

Jon​athan Black, Kingston School of Art, From Precisionist Modernity to ‘Romantic Primitive’ and the Deceptive Rural Idyll: George C. Ault and 1940s America

Louis Shadwick, The Courtauld, Edward Hopper and 1940s America

15:15 – Panel 4: The Medium and the Device

Andrew Witt, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Deren’s Fugue

Jason Hill, University of Delaware, The Look of Police Radio

16:15 – Break

17:15 – Panel 5: Long Histories: Beyond the 1940s

He​ather Campbell Coyle, Delaware Art Museum, Summertime and Beyond: John L. Sexton’s Collection of Modern American Painting

Laura Bruni, Tate Liverpool, The Long Harlem Renaissance

17:30 – Plenary II:

Alexander Nemerov, Stanford University, Oblivion

18:30 – ENDS



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