The glitter of Night Hauling: Andrew Wyeth in the 1940s

from The Magazine ANTIQUES, May/June 2012 |

How do we account for the strangeness of Andrew Wyeth's art of the 1940s? How, that is, beyond discerning the surrealist undertones, finding the magic realist affinities, or seeing that Wyeth followed in a Brandywine tradition whose oddity was firmly established by Howard Pyle-lone pirates on desolate shores; magicians and curly-shoed dwarves; Revolutionary War officers strolling down streets so detailed (down to every last timber, shop sign, and grass blade) they make your head swim? Is the young Andrew Wyeth only an inheritor of that tradition, updating it in a modernist-inflected manner for the 1940s, and might we leave it simply at that? Or is something else going on? Consider Night Hauling, a painting Wyeth made in 1944 showing a lone man on the ocean at night, furtively stealing from a lobster trap amid twinklings and gleaming pours of phosphorescence (Fig. 1). 

Fig. 1. Night Hauling by Andrew Newell Wyeth (1917-2009), 1944. Signed "Andrew Wyeth" at lower right. Tempera on masonite, 23 by 37 ⅛ inches. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, gift of Ernestine K. Smith, in memory of her husband, Burwell B. Smith.

That bioluminescence is our first clue. The "burning of the sea," as the scientist E. Newton Harvey describes it in his book Living Light (1940), "results from living organisms, both microscopic and macroscopic." The bigger gleams, he writes, usually come from jellyfish "and give rise to the larger, more brilliant flashes of light often seen in the wake or about the sides of a steamer at night." The tiny gleams, by contrast, are caused by "various species of dinoflagellates...such as Noctiluca (just visible to the naked eye) which collect on the surface of the sea and often increase in such numbers that the water is colored by day (usually pink and red) and shines like a sheet of fire when disturbed at night."1 Those fiery organisms had long been a good choice for artists wanting to show wondrous effects.

Fig. 2. "Pyrosoma diver" in Charles Frederick Holder, Living Lights: A Popular Account of Phosphorescent Animals and Vegetables (London, 1887).

 

 

 

 

For example, an illustration from Charles Frederick Holder's book Living Lights, published in 1887, shows a diver confronting what looks to be a monstrous luminescent sponge, actually "an aggregation of individuals, forming a hollow cylinder closed at one end," up to four feet in length, and called a pyrosoma or fire-body (Fig. 2).2 Wyeth's Night Hauling, with its own man confronting a comparably amazing glow, is strange then simply because it depicts phosphorescence, because it combines the fire of the creatures with the illuminations of illustration itself (illustration means "bringing to light"3), and our story appears at an end. Night Hauling is just one in a long line of Jules Verne-like pictures of ocean ghosts and other mariners' lore. But then there was something special about bioluminescence in the 1940s. Think of two works from that decade besides Wyeth's-one movie and one painting, each commenting on the fiery ocean. The first is the beautiful Hollywood film I Walked with a Zombie, produced by Val Lewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur, released in April 1943, and (despite its schlock studio-assigned title) far more sad and strange than cheap and scary. Early in the film the nurse Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) is taken to her new job-caring for the invalid wife of the Caribbean sugar planter Paul Holland-aboard Holland's yacht. As the boat sails on a moonlit night, Holland (Tom Conway) interrupts Betsy's reveries by looking at the ocean and commenting on the bleakness of all that seems beautiful (Fig. 3): "Those flying fish, they're not leaping for joy, they're jumping in terror. Bigger fish want to eat them." The same is true for the phosphorescence: "That luminous water, it takes its gleam from millions of tiny dead bodies, the glitter of putrescence." As Holland says, watching a shooting star, "Everything good dies here, even the stars."

Fig. 3. Tom Conway and Frances Dee in I Walked with a Zombie, 1943.

 

 

Lewton and Tourneur portray a more deathly phosphorescence than Wyeth's magical gleams. The melancholy sensibility of the Russian émigré Lewton, who wrote the script, is a far cry from the mood of awakening mystery that informs the work of the American Wyeth. The British accent of the actor Tom Conway, himself a Russian émigré (he had been born in Saint Petersburg in 1904 and fled the country with his family at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution), gives a further note of Byronic despondency to the scene, making it seem still more remote from Wyeth's treatment of the same theme the following year. If there is a sense of the grave-robber in Night Hauling, the lone crooked character working at night to extract his catch from the glimmering graveyard, this eeriness must finally be faint (at least to me), because Night Hauling, by contrast to I Walked with a Zombie, feels more enchanted and magical than haunted and morbid.


That enchantment, however, is closer to another portrayal of bioluminescence from the 1940s-though here, too, Wyeth's picture is ultimately very different. In 1947 Jackson Pollock painted Phosphorescence (Fig. 4), a transitional picture in his turn to drip painting that same year. The painting, as Francis V. O'Connor notes, is not a direct representation of phosphorescence. Rather it got its title after it was painted, in a naming session among Pollock, his wife Lee Krasner, and their Long Island neighbors, the translator Ralph Manheim and his wife Mary. Why then did Phosphorescence seem "right" to Pollock as a title? O'Connor points out the magi¬cal connotations of the seaside gleams Pollock knew well from his home in the Hamptons, where the ocean bled and trickled around the fields behind his house in the Springs: "Krasner recalled one dramatic natural phenomenon that frightened her but fascinated Pollock: the strands of phosphorescence that sometimes drifted eerily over the wetlands between their property and Accabonic [sic] Creek beyond." O'Connor, citing a memory of Ruth Kligman, Pollock's girlfriend in the 1950s, also notes that the artist "learned the trick of inducing phosphorescent effects by passing his hands over wet sand-‘painting in light,' as it were."4


These are enchantments, to be sure. Pollock was fascinated by the phosphorescence, not frightened like Krasner. Passing his hand over the wet sand, he was like a shaman, a mystical maker (recalling his admiration of the Navajo sand painters he had seen at the Museum of Modern Art's Indian Art of the United States exhibition in 1941). The vertical lines of white in Phosphorescence, squeezed directly from the tube, feel like the physical traces of the artist's hand carefully moving over the canvas as it lay flat like sand before him. The title Phosphorescence, like the other titles Pollock agreed to for his breakthrough 1947 pictures (painted partly or wholly in his new manner of pouring paint onto the canvas on the floor), alludes to a giddy spirit of dis¬covering, of having invented some new way of picturing, and of reveling in the alchemical effects of the new mode, as T. J. Clark points out. Sea Change, Magic Lantern, Enchanted Forest, Alchemy-these and other titles, including Phosphorescence, imply a glittering magic of making.5 And when Clement Greenberg, reviewing these pictures at Pollock's show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in January 1948, wrote that Phosphorescence "is almost too dazzling to be looked at indoors," his judgment responded to the picture's brilliant glows of aluminum, yellow, and white, the substance of its "overpowering surface."6

Fig. 4. Phosphorescence by Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), 1947. Signed and dated "47 J. Pollock 47" at lower center. Oil, enamel, and aluminum paint on canvas, 44 by 28 inches. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, gift Peggy Guggenheim © 2012 the Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 


Night Hauling unexpectedly shares something in common with Pollock's enchantment in Phosphorescence. Yes, there are almost no two American artists of the 1940s more antithetical than Wyeth and Pollock, yet in that decade each painter was drawn to phosphorescence as a metaphor of artistic creation. Wyeth's lobster thief takes a moment, amid his theft, to look round in wonder at the gleaming visual effects his action has caused. It is apt, too, that Night Hauling is so much about pouring, about a gleam falling, pouring, splashing, onto the flat surface of the ocean that already sparkles with isolated dots of light. Even in 1944, well before Pollock hit on his new mode, Wyeth seems to have been aware-in ways that of course he never practiced as a painting technique-that a pour of liquid light might produce a wondrous aesthetic effect: the effect of Night Hauling itself.


At the same time, we need to take seriously the differences between Pollock and Wyeth. Pollock's art comes from an inveterate hostility to various things, including the representational manner of painters such as Wyeth. Although Greenberg approvingly regarded the dazzle of Phosphorescence as a sign of a new-found Apollonian manner in Pollock's art-a disinterested, impersonal mode that would avoid the Dionysian excess of a psychological art, an art of angst, whether surrealist or "gothic" in the American sense of a Melville or Faulkner7-it is also possible to see Pollock's art of 1947 as far more personally expressive and politically aware than Greenberg would have cared to admit.8 By contrast Wyeth's Night Hauling, a fantasy without rage, has no gripe with the culture at large.

Fig. 5. And putting their mouths to the level of a starry pool they drank their fill by Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945), 1916. Oil on canvas, 40 ¼ by 32 ¼ inches. Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

 


So if Night Hauling lacks Pollock's anger and agony, and if it lacks I Walked with a Zombie's sadness, what is the quality of its phosphorescence? The painting is a holdover of the old Brandywine magic-the Pyle-induced weirdness and wonder-but it is only partly so, and (as we will see) much depends on the way it deviates from this tradition. Night Hauling recalls N.C. Wyeth's And putting their mouths to the level of a starry pool they drank their fill, which the elder Wyeth made in 1916 as one of his illustrations for the Scribner's edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Black Arrow (Fig. 5). The scene shows a moment when the two companions Dick and Matcham, walking in the night, come to a river: "The ground sloped down gently; and, sure enough, in the bottom, they found a little murmuring river, running among willows. Here they threw themselves down together...and putting their mouths to the level of a starry pool, they drank their fill."9

 

 

Fig. 6. Hiawatha's Fishing by N. C. Wyeth, 1907. Oil on canvas, 37 by 26 ⅞ inches. Private collection; photograph by Rick Echelmeyer, courtesy of the Brandywine River Museum.

 

 

The mysterious nighttime scene, the glimmering stars, and the strangely rapt figures (partaking of the water with a religious reverence) anticipate Night Hauling. So does the lone figure in N. C.'s picture of 1907 Hiawatha's Fishing (Fig. 6), which even as a daytime scene evokes the lone man of Andrew's picture. Lurking, too, in these pictures of water is N. C.'s adulation of Henry David Thoreau, whom he once described as "my springboard for almost every move I can make,"10 so that when Thoreau wrote of spending "the hours of midnight fishing from a boat by moonlight,"11 of being "surrounded sometimes by thousands of small perch and shiners, dimpling the surface with their tails in the moonlight," the description finds a distant echo as much in Andrew's Night Hauling as in the Walden-inspired water-worshippers of his father's art.


Yet Night Hauling dramatically differs from these scenes and from Thoreau's description. Dick and Matcham, in The Black Arrow picture, kiss the pool in states of narcissistic beatitude. Hiawatha, in the other painting, stares at his own image in a George de Forest Brush-style moment of aesthetic reverie. The circles radiating from the canoe, no less than the brave's mirror image, imply N. C.'s Thoreau-like faith in the powers of a person to pattern the natural world with his own reflections. To say that in Night Hauling this is not happening is only part of the story. The lobster thief is a severed Narcissus-a man whose relation to the water is not so direct and unified as in N. C.'s two pictures, a man who not only stands at a remove from the water but who experiences that water, with its weird illuminations, as an alien realm apart from himself. He is indeed an interloper, someone who does not belong where he is. And if he is taking another's property, his reliance on another is paradoxically another form of his isolation.

Fig. 7. The Herring Net by Winslow Homer (1836-1910), 1885. Signed and dated "Homer ‘85" at lower right. Oil on canvas, 31 ⅛ by 48 ⅜ inches. Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection.


Is Wyeth's figure then an "alienated" figure-a modern-in the manner of, say, Winslow Homer's fishermen in a painting such as The Herring Net of 1885 (Fig. 7)? Andrew Wyeth, as a precociously talented artist, could already produce extraordinary emulations of Homer's art even in the early 1940s (in his marine watercolors, for example), and more generally it makes sense that the increasingly admired work of Homer-the subject of a major book by Lloyd Goodrich published in 1944-would be a "background," a source, for any ocean-going scene the young artist would want to paint in those years. By that logic, the loneliness of Homer's fishermen-faces averted, heads hidden by those strange gleaming oilskin hats, as they haul their catch from the sea-would be a template for Andrew's detached lobsterman.


Accordingly, we would get a different genealogy. Instead of a Brandywine/Walden progression from N. C. to Andrew, stressing Thoreau-like identifications between self and world, there would be a more "modern" progression, from The Herring Net to Night Hauling, emphasizing the repressions and other dislocations of modernity. Even this lineage, however, assumes too much the continuity between Homer and Andrew Wyeth, whereas arguably what comes across foremost in the comparison between these two pictures is the sense of The Herring Net, as it were, x-rayed-subject to some process, at any rate, that alters its palette of thickly painted grays, blues, and silvers into that drizzle of sparks and blackness, as if Wyeth were determined not to emulate Homer but to show the famous earlier artist's work, for some reason, inside-out.

Fig. 8. Enemy Action over American Bomber Station by Peter Hurd (1904-1984), 1942. Tempera on board, 21 by 31 ½ inches. U. S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C., Army Art Collection.


What then accounts for the oddity of Night Hauling? The answer is surprising, and it has much to do with the 1940s. The most striking characteristic of the painting-indeed, the hallmark of its strangeness-is the way the lobsterman in his boat riding the water seems also to look down on the earth from a position in the heavens-to be almost a God, staring at the twinkling lights of the earth as if from far above. This discrepancy seems intentional on Wyeth's part: the nearby rock formation reads equally well as a protrusion of slippery coastal stone a few feet from the man's position and as a distant shore, beheld from high in the air. Holder, in his book Living Lights, quotes one Commander R. E. Harris, who noted of a vast luminescence on the ocean that it resembled "the nebulae sometimes seen in the heavens,"12 and Wyeth's picture also shows a heavenly ocean.


This confusion of perspectives in Night Hauling makes no sense until we recall that two years earlier, in 1942, Wyeth had begun a painting showing just such an aerial vantage. That picture, which came to be called Soaring, shows three turkey vultures circling high above farmlands and a tiny farmhouse down below (Fig. 9). The high viewpoint lets us see something like the same vantage in Night Hauling. The fate of Soaring, moreover, is another connection between the two paintings. Michael Taylor notes how N. C. saw the developing picture of the vultures in Andrew's studio and informed his son that it "doesn't work," that it was "not a painting," whereupon the disheartened Andrew consigned the incomplete picture to a basement where it languished for eight years until a comment from Lincoln Kirstein persuaded him to take up the picture again and finish it.13 In that sense, Night Hauling-as a partial or equivocally aerial picture, a picture that masks its airborne perspective within a more apprehensible scene close to the earth-might have allowed Andrew to make his aerial picture and yet satisfy his father's definitions of what a picture was.

Fig. 9. Soaring by Andrew Wyeth, 1950. Signed "Andrew Wyeth" at lower right. Tempera on masonite, 48 by 87 inches. Shelburne Museum, Vermont.


The explicit vantage in Soaring allows us to see the distinctly airborne qualities in Night Hauling. Improbably, the lobster thief picture recalls aviation lore. Charles Lindbergh wrote that as he circled over Paris at four thousand feet, preparing to complete his historic nonstop transatlantic flight of 1927, he found that "from that height the ground assumed the appearance of the galaxy above"-an effect that evokes the strange stars and nebulae below Wyeth's figure. "Ahead in the distance," Lindbergh wrote, "appeared a glow that brightened into something akin to the aurora borealis-a patch of starlit earth under a starlit sky-the lamps of Paris-straight lines of lights, curving lines of lights, squares of lights, black spaces in between": the heavens, in other words, were beneath him.14 Virginia Woolf, in her 1928 essay "Flying over London" (a vivid but imaginary account of a flight she never took; she never flew in her life), wrote that the mind is so inveterately given to anthropomorphizing that the airplane became for her a boat riding the waves.15


These descriptions come from the 1920s, but the aerial scene in Soaring is particular to the 1940s. It is a scene of aggression, not unlike those shown in journalistic representations of bombing during the war. Taylor notes that Soaring "was made during the darkest years of the Second World War, when civilian populations were menaced by dive-bombing airplanes. Suddenly, the tiny homestead below seems threatened by the fearsome birds that are naturally drawn to the weak and the vulnerable."16


Night Hauling might also be construed as a World War II image. Although its aerial imagery recalls descriptions such as Lindbergh's and seems more peaceful, it is in fact a far more violent aviation picture than Soaring. Another picture of predation, it shows a man looking down as though on conflagrations far below. Though he lifts the phosphorescence up into the boat, the opposite of dropping bombs, the fire also falls into the sea from the lobster trap, creating the great bright burst at the lower center of the painting.


Could it be that the various representations available to Wyeth by 1944 of bomber aircraft hauling their payloads to target somehow have found their way into this image? The idea seems possible since his brother-in-law Peter Hurd (the very person who had introduced him to tempera paint) was in Europe during the war, painting pictures for Life magazine showing nighttime aerial bombardments, such as Enemy Action over American Bomber Station (Fig. 8), and depicting American aircrew as heroic isolated individuals in a feature that ran in Life on February 15, 1943. Though the relation between these images and Wyeth's is far from one-to-one, the twinkling flares in the nighttime sky of Enemy Action and the isolated focus on the bomber personnel anticipate Wyeth's scene. Perhaps not just Edward R. Murrow's famous radio descriptions of the bombing of London during the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, not just British movies screened in America such as Target for Tonight (1941) and American movies and documentaries such as Bombardier (1943), The Memphis Belle (1944), or the feature-length Disney propaganda film Victory Through Air Power (1943), but-within his own family-Hurd's portrayals of the air war all came to bear in Wyeth's Night Hauling.
Why then is the painting not literally a bombing scene? The horrors of industrial bombing got back to America in extremely incomplete and heavily mythologized form during the war.17 The sheer guts of the aircrews and the damage their bombs inflicted were only to be guessed at in those years. Night Haul¬ing, in this wartime context of propagandistic sedation, reads as a case history of the way events over there-far overseas-became transformed, modified in the American wartime imagination, into something soothing and even rather pleasantly dreamy and mysterious on this side of the ocean. Bombing became an adventure of sorts, a Jules Verne exotic tale.


Night Hauling, in this sense, belongs to a whole group of representations mystifying the aerial bombardments that were becoming an increasingly crucial-and indeed determining-fact of the war. Films such as The Memphis Belle did document the bombing in harrowing terms, but the focus understandably in this home-front feature is on the bravery and sacrifice (different from guts) of the American bomber crews, and their target is a military-industrial one. Critiquing such treatments in The Nation, James Agee noted in 1943 that in Disney's Victory Through Air Power "there were no suffering and dying enemy civilians under all those proud promises of bombs; no civilians at all, in fact." Agee also lamented that this seventy-minute feature detailing the theories of the Russian aviator Alexander P. de Seversky, who advocated overwhelming bombardment of the enemy homeland as the quickest way to end the war, should be foisted on the American public, like so many Hollywood features from those years, "without cross-questioning," that it should present "victory-in-a vacuum" and "gay dreams of holocaust."18


Night Hauling seems one such fantasy. In an America insulated from actual combat, a country that existed for Agee (again writing in 1943) in a largely "virginal, prenatal" state in relation to the war overseas, "almost as if it had never taken place,"19 Wyeth's painting was a cartoon of destruction. Pollock's first drip and quasi-drip paintings, by contrast, were initially likened to Hiroshima, and T. J. Clark has seen the all-over composition of these pictures-their build-up of successive units of more or less identical surface-as akin to the splitting of the atom and, as such, as the malcontented and forever-aggrieved Pollock's direct aesthetic response, in 1947, to that dominant fact of his times.20 Lewton, the Russian, could not help in his melancholic wartime films reminding his American audiences, as Paul Holland did to Betsy, that "everything seems beautiful because you don't understand," that "there's no beauty here-it's death and decay."21 But Wyeth made a painting that says "there's no death and decay here, only beauty."
However, Night Hauling retains its strange disquieting merit. Why is this? Maybe because its transformation from there to here-from death to beauty, from phosphorescent explosions to the merely weird-is incomplete. We still sense the bombing and the explosions and the airman visible in a kind of half-state, a process of incomplete transformation into mysterious lobsterman and boat and bioluminescence. If Wyeth was "about the pursuit of strangeness," as Mark Rothko once remarked,22 the strangeness in this picture is then of a particular sort. It consists not so much in the determined investigations of a Brandywine surrealist updating previous styles, or in those of a more philosophically and politically inclined artist showing the alienation of his father's beloved Hiawathan narcissists from their assorted Walden Ponds. It is nothing so conscious or programmatic as these art-historical and historical stories imply.


It is rather the strangeness of an artist caught between the unprecedented horrors of modern war and the adventures and fiery fun of Brandywine painting. These non-commensurate spaces pressure Wyeth's art into a singular oddity and distortion that, praise be to him, he is willing to accept and be governed by. And for that reason what is most notable about Night Hauling is not the achievement of the artist but rather the reverse: the way a historical situation, as it were, achieves him, the way he allows that situation itself to produce, through him, both the horror out in this home-front feature is on the bravery and sacrifice (different from guts) of the American bomber crews, and their target is a military-industri¬al one. Critiquing such treatments in The Nation, James Agee noted in 1943 that in Disney's Victory Through Air Power "there were no suffering and dying enemy civilians under all those proud promises of bombs; no civilians at all, in fact." Agee also la¬mented that this seventy-minute feature detailing the theories of the Russian aviator Alexander P. de Seversky, who advocated overwhelming bombardment of the enemy homeland as the quickest way to end the war, should be foisted on the American public, like so many Hollywood features from those years, "without cross-questioning," that it should present "victory-in-a vacuum" and "gay dreams of holocaust."18


Night Hauling seems one such fantasy. In an America insulated from actual combat, a country that existed for Agee (again writing in 1943) in a largely "virginal, prenatal" state in relation to the war overseas, "almost as if it had never taken place,"19 Wyeth's painting was a cartoon of destruction. Pollock's first drip and quasi-drip paintings, by contrast, were initially likened to Hiroshima, and T. J. Clark has seen the all-over composition of these pictures-their build-up of successive units of more or less identical surface-as akin to the splitting of the atom and, as such, as the malcontented and forever-aggrieved Pollock's direct aesthetic response, in 1947, to that dominant fact of his times.20 Lewton, the Russian, could not help in his melancholic wartime films reminding his American audiences, as Paul Holland did to Betsy, that "everything seems beautiful because you don't understand," that "there's no beauty here-it's death and decay."21 But Wyeth made a painting that says "there's no death and decay here, only beauty."
However, Night Hauling retains its strange disquieting merit. Why is this? Maybe because its transformation from there to here-from death to beauty, from phosphorescent explosions to the merely weird-is incomplete. We still sense the bombing and the explosions and the airman visible in a kind of half-state, a process of incomplete transformation into mysterious lobsterman and boat and bioluminescence. If Wyeth was "about the pursuit of strangeness," as Mark Rothko once remarked,22 the strangeness in this picture is then of a particular sort. It consists not so much in the determined investigations of a Brandywine surrealist updating previous styles, or in those of a more philosophically and politically inclined artist showing the alienation of his father's beloved Hiawathan narcissists from their assorted Walden Ponds. It is nothing so conscious or programmatic as these art-historical and historical stories imply.


It is rather the strangeness of an artist caught between the unprecedented horrors of modern war and the adventures and fiery fun of Brandywine painting. These non-commensurate spaces pressure Wyeth's art into a singular oddity and distortion that, praise be to him, he is willing to accept and be governed by. And for that reason what is most notable about Night Hauling is not the achievement of the artist but rather the reverse: the way a historical situation, as it were, achieves him, the way he allows that situation itself to produce, through him, both the horror out there somewhere and his inability or unwillingness to find the terms to show it. The war years enter Wyeth's art and he consents to be bent by them, letting the strangeness come precisely from this willingness to paint the old dreams in a world where there are none.


1 E. Newton Harvey, Living Light (Princeton University Press, Princeton, N. J., 1940), p. 7.

2 Charles Frederick Holder, Living Lights: A Popu¬lar Account of Phosphorescent Animals and Vegetables (New York, 1887), p. 81.

3 J. Hillis Miller, Illustration (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1992), p. 61.

4 Francis V. O'Connor, "Jackson Pollock," in Susan C. Faxon, et al., Addison Gallery of American Art: 6

5 Years: A Selective Catalogue (Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Mass., 1996), pp. 448-449. 5 T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1999), p. 300.

6 Clem¬ent Greenberg, "Review of Jackson Pollock," The Nation (January 24, 1948), reprinted in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 2: Arrogant Purpose, 1945-1949 (University of Chicago Press, Chi¬cago, 1986), p. 202.

7 Greenberg, "The Present Prospects of American Painting and Sculpture," reprinted in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 2, p. 166.

8 Pollock, in Clark's reading, made inscrutable pictures in an attempt to outmaneuver the inevitable co-optations of the consumer culture. Pollock wanted to resist, if only for a time, that culture's conversion of all representations, no matter how different and odd they may seem at first, into stable conventional signs (for example, poured lines equal the "unconscious"), so that ultimately these signs may be used to sell people things. Whether one agrees with this interpretation or not, it seems fair, reviewing the drip and part-drip paintings of 1947-1949, to think that many of them express an "agony" (to use Clark's word) at odds with Greenberg's insistence on their Apollonian detachment. See Clark, "The Unhappy Consciousness," in Farewell to an Idea, pp. 299-370.

9 Robert Louis Stevenson, The Black Arrow; A Tale of Two Roses (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1916), p. 83.

10 N.C. Wyeth, quoted in David Michaelis, N.C. Wyeth: A Biography (Knopf, New York, 1998), p. 226.

11 Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854: Vintage, New York, 1991), p. 142.

12 Holder, Living Lights, p. 85.

13 Michael R. Taylor, "Between Realism and Surrealism: The Early Work of Andrew Wyeth," in Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic (High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 2005), p. 31.

14 Lindbergh, quoted in A. Scott Berg, Lindbergh (G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1998), p. 128.

15 Virginia Woolf, "Fly¬ing over London," in Woolf, Collected Essays, vol. 4 (Harcourt, New York, 1967), p. 169.

16 Taylor, "Between Realism and Surrealism," p. 32. Taylor also notes that Wyeth's drawing of a vulture, reproduced on the cov¬er of the September 1942 issue of American Artist magazine, "showed the bird's enormous wingspan as it swooped down on some unknown prey."

17 For accounts of the forgetting of the allied bombing campaign, in Germany and in America, see Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, trans. Linda Haverty Rugg (New Press, New York, 2001) and W.G. Sebald, On the Natural History of Destruction, trans. Anthea Bell (Random House, New York, 2003).

18 James Agee, untitled film review, The Nation (July 3, 1943), reprinted in Agee on Film: Criticism and Comment on the Movies (Modern Library, New York, 2000), pp. 25-26.

19 Agee, "So Proudly We Fail," The Nation (October 30, 1943), reprinted in Agee on Film, p. 38.

20 Clark, "Pollock's Smallness," in Jackson Pollock: New Approaches, ed. Kirk Varnedoe and Pepe Karmel (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1999), pp. 15-30.

21 For a fuller account of Lewton's wartime films, see my Icons of Grief: Val Lewton's Home Front Pictures (University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif., 2005).

22 Mark Rothko, quoted in Taylor, "Between Realism and Surrealism," p. 38.


ALEXANDER NEMEROV is the Vincent Scully Professor of the History of Art at Yale University.

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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