Speaking of the emergence of modernism, author Virginia Woolf famously said: On or about December 1910, human character changed. But was the shift to modernism really so revolutionary? J. M. Mancini argues that it was t. She proposes that the origins of the movement can in fact be traced well into the nineteenth century. Several cultural developments after the Civil War gradually set the stage for modernism, Mancini contends. New mass art media appeared on the scene, as did a national network of museums and groundbreaking initiatives in art education.These new institutions provided support for future modernists and models for the creators of the avant-garde. Simultaneously, art critics began to embrace abstraction after the Civil War, both for aesthetic reasons and to shore up their own nascent profession. Modernism was thus linked, Mancini argues, to the emergence of cultural hierarchy. A work of impeccable scholarship and unusual breadth, the book challenges some of the basic ideas about both the origins of twentieth-century modernism and the character of Gilded-Age culture. It will appeal t only to art historians but also to scholars in American history and American studies.
J. M. Mancini is Lecturer in Modern History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. She has published extensively on nineteenth and twentieth-century American history and culture.
Winner of Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art 2008.