The Syllabus

Younger American Painters: A Selection

Younger American Painters: A Selection 1954

James Johnson Sweeney
Published in 1954
80 pages, fully illustrated

A companion to the 1953 exhibition Younger European Painters, Younger American Painters drew attention to a new generation of artists from across the nation. The comparison of American to European painters was "a question that has struck everyone who has any interest in the future of art," and in his catalogue essay, James John Sweeney likens these Americans to pioneers, in both their eagerness to go "beyond familiar ground" and to seek "a new tradition, or to contrive one." The catalogue includes an essay, artist biographies, and black-and-white reproductions.


The persistent excitement, the tenseness of expression, the inclination to a violence of contrasts of shapes and colors, the brittleness—so frequent—and the brilliance of palette in contrast with the Europeans' sobriety are not to be wondered at in a young art. And if American art is eventually to enjoy a maturity, it must first have a youth. Up to the present it has not. What we have been calling American art was born old. It has been existing on the coattails of Europe. And should it continue to limit its gaze to that direction it will undoubtedly keep a parasitic character. If we are to have an individual culture in the United States it must achieve its maturity on a relatively independent ground. Youth must be the first step. And art, like a human being, must pay for the advantage of youth with all that goes with youth, if it is to earn maturity.

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