The Syllabus

Younger European Painters: A Selection

Younger European Painters: A Selection 1953

James Johnson Sweeney
Published in 1953
60 pages, fully illustrated

In his introduction to the catalogue for the 1953 exhibition Younger European Painters, James John Sweeney, second director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, suggests that a widespread characteristic of the younger European painters is an interest in exploration and adventure. Sweeney famously defined "younger" as referring to an artist's reputation, rather than chronological age; among the artists he included were some born in the 19th century. Representing a wide array of artistic expression in Europe, including works by Karel Appel, Alberto Burri, and Pierre Soulages, the catalogue documents what Sweeney noted was a newfound "variety and vitality" on the continent "asserting themselves in a way they have not for the past thirty years." The catalogue includes black-and-white reproductions and brief biographies for each artist.


The variety which marks the contemporary work of the younger generation may very possibly come from the variety of influences which it welcomes, as well as from the variety of its talents. The turn has been away from the domination of Picasso; the interest Paris felt in rediscovering Kandinsky during the war have worn off; Léger, Braque, and Matisse belong to a period three decades behind the artist looking for an idiom related to our own day; and Miro's is a personal idiom as dangerous to adopt as Mondrian's. The younger generation has apparently come to realize that the approach of the older men may be emulated, but must not be followed.

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