The Force Behind The Whitney

American art was hardly more than a cultural curiosity in the early years of this century. Now it is among the world’s most influential, and much of the credit belongs to a self-made woman named Juliana Force.

Today, when a painting by a living American artist fetches seventeen million dollars at auction, as a picture by Jasper Johns did last year, or when hundreds of people stand in line to get into a museum, as they did for the retrospectives of Edward Hopper, Willem de Kooning, and Georgia O’Keeffe, it is almost impossible to imagine the hostility and suspicion long encountered by American artists. In the early years of this century, a painter of independent or nonconformist leanings was a pariah.Read more »

The Shocking Blue Hair Of Elie Nadelman

He ignored the conventions of his day and became one of the greatest American sculptors of this century

I find myself sketching a top hat on a snapshot I’ve taken of a former pasha’s obituary photograph. I marvel at the resemblance between Abbas Hilmi II, the last Turkish ruler of Egypt, who died in exile in Geneva in 1944, according to the encyclopedia, and my grandfather Elie Nadelman’s painted bright-bronze sculpture Man in a Top Hat.Read more »

John Vachon: A Certain Look

He was a consummate professional whose photographs spanned the years from the Great Depression to the death of the great picture magazines. He traveled many thousands of miles but never really left the American heartland.
Read more »


He claimed his critics didn’t like his work because it was “too noisy,” but he didn’t care what any of them said. George Luks’s determination to paint only what interested him was his greatest strength—and his greatest weakness.

Probing westward along the streets of Manhattan, the first light of Sunday, October 29,1933, revealed, stretched out in a doorway on Sixth Avenue, near Fifty-second Street, under the el, a well-dressed elderly man, solidly built and balding, with a little patch of fine white hair, an inverted triangle, at the center of his forehead. He was dead. Letters in an inside jacket pocket identified him as George B. Luks, the artist, of 140 East Twenty-eighth Street, and an examination of his corpse established that he had been felled by a heart attack.Read more »

101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

You Asked for It

When American Heritage suggested last year that I put together the article that became “101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know about American History,” I accepted the assignment eagerly. None of the many articles I have published in this magazine over the years have attracted half so much attention, and I became so absorbed in thinking of items to include that I soon had far more than could fit into an article. I therefore decided to gather still more.Read more »

Landscapes Of Power

Charles Sheeler found his subject in the architecture of industry. To him, America’s factories were the cathedrals of the modern age.

In the fall of 1927 the Philadelphia advertising agency N. W. Ayer and Son came up with a campaign for the Ford Motor Company: a series of photographs of Ford’s thousand-acre industrial site on the Rouge River near Detroit, which would portray the company itself as an efficient machine, an icon of American industry. Ayer had a photographer in mind: a Philadelphian named Charles Sheeler. Read more »

‘Let Them All Be Damned-I’ll Do As I Please’

In a career that made her one of the greatest American artist of the century, Georgia O’Keeffe claimed to have done it all by herself—without influence from family, friends, or fellow artists. The real story is less romantic though just as extraordinary.

Remembering her Wisconsin years, O’Keeffe once said defiantly, “I was not a favorite child, but I didn’t mind at all.”

Georgia O’Keeffe wrote in a cryptic autobiography of no more than a thousand words, published in 1976: “Where I was born and where and how I lived is unimportant.Read more »

Pleasure In Creation

Born in response to the shoddy, machine-made goods available in the marketplace, the Arts and Crafts movement in America began in isolated workshops and spread to the public at large, preaching the virtues of the simple, the useful, and the handmade

THROUGHOUT AMERICA GRADE SCHOOLS AND summer camps teach “arts and crafts.” In my rural school we mitered wooden boxes, hammered decorative copper, and crackle-glazed clay pots—all under the gaze of a man who wore a dirty smock and a white beard, marks of individuality unknown to other instructors. We worked as if within an ancient order (or, in our case, youthful disorder) of craftsmen.Read more »

FDR The Last Photo

A picture taken the day before President Roosevelt’s death has been hidden away in an artist’s file until now

Commissioned to paint Franklin Roosevelt, Elizabeth Shoumatoff arrived in Warm Springs, Georgia, in early April, 1945. Before starting her day’s work on April 11, she asked an assistant, Nicholas Robbins, to snap a few pictures of the President.

One of these, the last taken, is a haunting document of Roosevelt’s final hours. Never published before, it is shown on the opposite page. Mrs. Shoumatoff, who died in 1980, left a memoir of this photo session and the fateful day that followed:


The distinguished artist talks intimately about the art, the emotions, and the unique talent of his illustrator father, Newell Convers Wyeth

MY FATHER WAS A VERY ROBUST, POWERFULLY built man. But strangely enough, his hands were very delicate. A lot of people like to think, since he was a great big man, that he ate enormous amounts of food, but he was a very delicate eater. He gave the impression of great physical power. One of the stories around Chadds Ford was about a milk train he would meet and how he would help the farmers lift their enormous ten-gallon cans—one in each hand—up onto the platform beside the tracks.

Read more »