How did American artists represent the Jazz Age? The exhibition Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties brings together for the first time the work of more than 60 painters, sculptors, and photographers who explored a new mode of modern realism in the years bounded by the aftermath of the Great War and the onset of the Great Depression. Throughout the 1920s, artists created images of liberated modern bodies and the changing urban-industrial environment with an eye toward ideal form and ordered clarity—qualities seemingly at odds with a riotous decade best remembered for its flappers and Fords.
Artists took as their subjects uninhibited nudes and close-up portraits that celebrated sexual freedom and visual intimacy, as if in defiance of the restrictive routines of automated labor and the stresses of modern urban life. Reserving judgment on the ultimate effects of machine culture on the individual, they distilled cities and factories into pristine geometric compositions that appear silent and uninhabited. American artists of the Jazz Age struggled to express the experience of a dramatically remade modern world, demonstrating their faith in the potentiality of youth and in the sustaining value of beauty. Youth and Beauty will present more than 130 works by artists including Ansel Adams, George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Stuart Davis, Aaron Douglas, Walker Evans, Edward Hopper, Isamu Noguchi, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Grant Wood.
Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties is organized by the Brooklyn Museum. Major support for this exhibition and the accompanying catalogue was also provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Exhibition Fund, The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.