THE BOSTON PAINTERS 1900-1930 by R.H. Ives Gammell


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In this posthumous volume, painter, critic, and teacher Gammell delivers both a valuable social and aesthetic history of the Boston art scene, 1900-1930, and a reactionary, narrow-minded blast against modernism. The Boston painters that Gammell reveres worked in a traditional mode: arduous apprenticeship, technical proficiency, devotion to the cult of beauty. Gammell is at his best when lovingly recalling--in some cases with the added spice of personal reminiscence--the personal lives and aesthetic theories of the four most important Boston artists: Joseph DeCamp, Edmund Tarbell, Frank Benson, and William Paxton. That few people today will recognize these names is a measure of how far their stars have fallen; superseded, says Gammell, by the Ash Can School of the Depression with its proletarian values. So far so good, but Gammell also insists on consigning to eternal damnation the last half-century of art in America. He seems totally unaware that for all their technical virtuosity, the Boston artists were painfully constricted in subject matter. The great bulk of the 117 black-and-white and 42 color prints included here depict formal portrait; nowhere do we see the explosive inventiveness in subject or style of post-WW II art. Moreover, Gammell's curmudgeonly comments--he is constantly railing against the crude taste of the ill-informed public--sound suspiciously like sour grapes. Simply put: the man doth protest too much. As a history of the Boston art scene, invaluable; as a cry for a return to salon painting, an ill-tempered curiosity.

Pub Date: July 8th, 1986
Publisher: Parnassus