Gatecrashers: The First Generation of Outsider Artists in America

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Date

2015

Authors

Jentleson, Katherine Laura

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Powell, Richard J

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Abstract

Although interest in the work of untrained artists has surged recently, appearing everywhere from the Venice Biennale to The New Yorker, the art world’s fascination with American autodidacts began nearly a century ago. My dissertation examines how and why American artists without formal training first crashed the gates of major museums and galleries between 1927 and 1940 through case studies on the most celebrated figures of the period: John Kane (1860–1934), Horace Pippin (1888–1946), and Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses (1860–1961). All three painters were exhibited as “modern primitives,” a category that emerged in the wake of the French naïve Henri Rousseau (1844–1910) but which took on a distinct character in the United States where it became a space for negotiating renewed debates about authenticity in American art as well as pervasive social anxieties over how immigration, race, and industrialization were changing the country. In addition to establishing how the “modern primitive" fit into the pluralistic landscape of American modernism, my dissertation reaches into the present, exploring how the interwar breakthroughs of Kane, Pippin, and Moses prefigured the ubiquity of self-taught artists—often referred to as “outsider” artists—in American museums today.

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Jentleson, Katherine Laura (2015). Gatecrashers: The First Generation of Outsider Artists in America. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11363.

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