What if we ascribe significance to aesthetic and social divergences rather than waving them aside as anomalous? What if we look closely at what does not appear central, or appears peripherally, or does not appear at all, viewing ellipses, outliers, absences, and outtakes as significant? Eccentric Modernisms places queer demands on art history, tracing the relational networks connecting cosmopolitan eccentrics who cultivated discrepant strains of modernism in America during the 1930s and 1940s. Building on the author’s earlier studies of Gertrude Stein and other lesbians who participated in transatlantic cultural exchanges between the world wars, this book moves in a different direction, focusing primarily on the gay men who formed Stein’s support network and whose careers, in turn, she helped to launch, including the neo-romantic painters Pavel Tchelitchew and writer-editor Charles Henri Ford. Eccentric Modernisms shows how these “eccentric modernists” bucked trends by working collectively, reveling in disciplinary promiscuity and sustaining creative affiliations across national and cultural boundaries.
Introduction: “Eccentric Propositions”
1. Dix Portraits
2. Four Saints in Three Acts
3. View: American Issues
Conclusion: “How to Look at Modern Art in America”
Tirza True Latimer is Associate Professor and Chair of the Visual and Critical Studies Graduate Program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.
“Tirza True Latimer’s analysis of under-studied episodes in the queer history of modernism challenges so many common art historical assumptions that this book could be said to queer art history itself. Eccentric Modernisms
makes a compelling case for the importance of queer subcultures and multimedia collaborations.”—Christopher Reed, Professor of English and Visual Culture, The Pennsylvania State University
“Latimer gives us both intimate and expansive readings of three ambitious interdisciplinary projects of the 1930s and 1940s, emphasizing their collaborative nature as one way artists such as Virgil Thomson, Pavel Tchelitchew, Christian Bérard, and Charles Henri Ford performed their modernism. Her study promotes a more inclusive history of modern art, one that embraces the productive partnerships within the cosmopolitan and international queer community during the first half of the twentieth century.” —Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History, Stanford University
“This book reveals how a creative community was formed and sustained, and how it eventually, although belatedly, came to influence our culture. Combining historical, contextual, theoretical, and visual analyses of under-studied artworks, publications, and ephemera, Latimer tells a hidden history that does not rely on authoritarian truth claims, offering instead a methodological model for understanding suppressed, yet highly significant, historical phenomena. Interdisciplinary in nature, this study is bound to be significant across a multitude of fields.”—Dr. Nizan Shaked, author of The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art