The 1913 Armory Show in New York City introduced the American public to the works of “a number of foreign artists,” as the journalist Frederick James Gregg wrote at the time, “who, though they are well known in Europe, are for the most part but names to New York and America”. These unfamiliar foreign artists included not only indisputably cutting-edge Cubists and Futurists, such as Braque, Picasso, Brancusi, and Duchamp. This was also the first time most Americans had the chance to see paintings by a number of 19th-century painters long become canonical in Europe — among others Ingres, Delacroix, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.

In the face of all this novelty, the public was confused, dismissive, and more than occasionally outraged. When, for example, a New York Times questionnaire asked an anonymous American artist for a “straight-from-the-shoulder opinion on the Cubists and the Futurists,” he replied:

Start your free trial to read the full story

Subscribe to Air Mail to access every article
and search our entire Arts Intel Report.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here.