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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An American in Venice : Ben Shahn and United States foreign policy at the XXVIIth Venice Biennale, or,… Pohl, Frances K. 1980

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AN AMERICAN IN VENICE: BEN SHAHN AND UNITED STATES FOREIGN POLICY AT THE XXVIITH VENICE BIENNALE PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS AN AMERICAN LIBERAL B.A., The University of Bri t i s h Columbia, 1977 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL PDLPIIMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Fine Arts) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA June 1980 ©Frances Kathryn Pohl OR MASTER OF ARTS in In p resent ing t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements f o r an advanced degree a t the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Co lumbia , I agree t h a t the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r re fe rence and s tudy . I f u r t h e r agree tha t permiss ion f o r e x t e n s i v e copying of t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by h i s r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s understood tha t copying or p u b l i c a t i o n of t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l ga in s h a l l not be a l lowed wi thout my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . Department of fr^Afo  The U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia 2075 Wesbrook P lace Vancouver, Canada V6T 1W5 i i ABSTRACT In 1954 the Museum of Modern Art, as the new proprietor of the American pavilion i n Venice, selected only two artists to represent American painting at the twenty-seventh Venice Biennale—-Willem de Kooning and Ben Shahn. At f i r s t glance, this appears to be a somewhat incongruous coupling. A closer examination, though, reveals that each of these artists represented part of a larger American cultural propaganda campaign aimed at improving the image of America throughout the world. The development of this campaign paralleled, and was intimately bound up with, that of the Cold War. As the major international showcase for contemporary art, the Venice Biennale assumed an important position i n America's overall cultural foreign policy. The works exhibited there represented not only individual talent but also national ideologies and cultural achievements. In retrospect, the i n -clusion of de Kooning i n the 1954 Biennale can be explained by his reputation in America at that time as one of the avant-garde of the American art scene. Various scholars have also shown how his abstract style embodied an image of America as a land of freedom, aggressive individualism, and innovation, an image that was valuable as a f o i l to the purportedly oppressive nature of l i f e i n Russia. While Ben Shahn was, admittedly, a recognized modern Ameri-can ar t i s t i n 1954* he was neither a member of the a r t i s t i c avant-garde nor a representative of aggressive individualism. But he was a representative of certain other aspects of American l i b e r a l democracy—humanism, free speech, anti-communism, and anti-fascism—-that were able to improve America's image in Europe in 1954 much more effectively than de Kooning's aggression. Shahn's success i n Italy i n particular was the result of certain elements within the i i i paintings included i n the Biennale and within his own personal beliefs. While much has been written concerning the role of abstract expression-ism i n America and abroad during the Cold War, no similar study has been de-voted to the work of Ben Shahn. In attempting to reveal the implications of and reasons for Shahn*s appearance at the 1954 Venice Biennale, this paper w i l l investigate Shahn's reputation and his work i n relation to American foreign policy concerns in Europe, and particularly i n Italy, i n the early 1950s. The role of private institutions, such as the Museum of Modern Art, and of the Venice Biennale i n American foreign policy w i l l be investigated, as well as the failure of de Kooning's art to meet with the same success: as that of Shahn's art. Finally, an examination of the promotional literature for and press reaction to the exhibition of Shahn's work, and of two of the paintings included i n this exhibition--Liberation and The Red Stairway—will show how Shahn was able to convince the Italian public that not only was he a great a r t i s t , but a great American as well. i v TABLE OP CONTENTS LIST OP ILLUSTRATIONS v ACKNOWIiEDGEMENTS v i : INTRODUCTION America at the Yenice Biennale 1 Footnotes , 1 0 CHAPTER ONE Italy and American Foreign Policy: Christian Democracy or Nothing . . . . . . . . . . 14 A L i t t l e Hagiolatry Goes a Long Way 19 Artium Spectaculum Omnium Terr arum . 24 De Kooning: Innovation and Aggression • 28 Footnotes 33 CHAPTER TWO The Artist and The Poli t i c i a n 41 Italy, Oppression, and the Free Individual « 45 A Modem-Day Crucifixion • 54 An Overwhelming Success 58 The Dignity and the Reality of the Oppressed • ». 66 A L i t t l e Something For Everyone—Liberation and The Red Stairway . . . . . . . . . . . 81 Footnotes 103 CONCLUSION Success and Failure at the XXVII Venice Biennale . . . . . . 115 Footnotes . . . . . . 122 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 124 APPENDIX A 1J1 APPENDIX B 133 V LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Figure Page 1 . Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 1 9 5 0 - 5 2 31 2 . Ben Shahn, Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco, 1 9 3 1 - 2 5 6 3 . Ben Shahn, Summertime, 1 9 4 9 • 61 4 . Ben Shahn, Spring, 1 9 4 6 6 2 5 . Ben Shahn, Miners' Wives, .1948 6 3 6 . Carlo Levi, Trachoma, 1 9 5 3 6 9 7 . Renato Guttuso, Roman Boogie-Woogie, 1 9 5 3 • • 7 0 8. Ben Shahn, Handball. 1939 72 9. Ben Shahn, This i s Nazi Brutality, 1 9 4 2 7 4 1 0 . Ben Shahn, We French Workers Warn You, 1 9 4 2 7 5 1 1 . Ben Shahn, Break Reaction's Grip—Register Vote,. 1946 . 7 6 1 2 . Ben Shahn, We Want Peace—Register Vote, 1 9 4 6 7 7 1 3 . Ben Shahn, Bor A l l These Rights We've Just Begun To Fight~-Register Vote, 1 9 4 6 7 8 14. Ben Shahn, Warning—Inflation Means Depression—Register Vote. 1946 79 1 5 . Ben Shahn, Liberation, 1945 8 3 16. Ben Shahn, The Red Stairway, 1 9 4 4 8 4 1 7 . Ben Shahn, Italian Landscape, 1944 • • • • • • • • • • • 8 5 18. Ben Shahn, Father and Child, 1 9 4 6 8 6 1 9 . Edouard Manet, Rue Mosnier Decked With Flags* 1878 . . . 95 2 0 . Giorgio de Chirico, Melancholy and Mystery of a Street, 1914 97 2 1 . Leonardo da Vinci, Adoration of the Magi, c. 1481 . . . 9 9 2 2 . Sandro B o t t i c e l l i , Adoration of the Magi, early 1 4 7 0 s . 99 2 3 . Sandro B o t t i c e l l i , Adoration of the Magi, 1482 1 0 0 2 4 . Ben Shahn, Allegory, 1948 102 v i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thanks are due to many people. F i r s t , to Serge Guilbaut and David Solkin for braving my looks of impatience and frustration to continue with their perceptive and helpful criticisms. Second, to Laurenda for the invaluable loan of her house and typewriter, and for her constant encouragement and faith—alo n g with that of Roy, Susan, Sara, Donald, Dennis, Katy, and Jack-i n my a b i l i t y to succeed i n this stage of my academic training. Third, to Louise, Toni, Jewel, and Val for being around to remind me that there i s more to l i f e than art history. And f i n a l l y , to Mom and Dad, who always wanted me to settle down and get a job, but who supported me i n my academic pursuits nonetheless. v i i There i s more to a work of art than meets the eye. Popular Saying INTRODUCTION 1 The American pavilion, with i t s tiny dome and miniature symmetrical wings, i s Colonial neoclassic, halfway between Monticello and Howard Johnson. Lawrence Alloway, The Venice Biennale, 1968 America at the Venice Biennale On 19 June 1954 the twenty-seventh Venice Biennale opened i t s doors to the public. Those who entered the American pavilion were met by an exhibition entitled "Two Painters and Three Sculptors From the United States." The three sculptors were Gaston Lachaise, Ibram Lassaw, and David Smith; the two painters Willem de Kooning and Ben Shahn. The latter combination appears, today, somewhat unusual—de Kooning, one of the main figures of abstract expressionism, and Shahn, called, variously, a social, new, or magic r e a l i s t . ^ To those art historians raised within the formalist tradition the presence of de Kooning i n the major international contemporary art exhibition of 1954 would not seem particularly surprising. Abstract expressionism i n the early 1950s was, after a l l , the most advanced art movement i n the modernist con-tinuum. But the presence of Ben Shahn poses certain problems. His active involvement i n various forms of social protest and his belief i n the primacy of socially-relevant content i n art place him outside .the. avant-garde, modernist tradition of this time. Such qualities are more i n keeping with the a r t i s t i c climate of the 1930s i n America and, indeed, this i s where most 2 recent histories of twentieth-century American art place Shahn. His out-standing success at the Venice Biennale i s even more inexplicable within the framework of the formalist tradition. It i s necessary, therefore, to go be-yond this framework in order to discover why Shahn was sent to Venice and why he was so well-received. The last decade has seen the appearance of a number of articles 2 explaining abstract expressionism's success i n the late 1940s and early 1950s i n terms of i t s a b i l i t y to f u l f i l certain of America's ideological needs. In the following pages the argument w i l l be presented that Shahn's inclusion i n the twenty-seventh Venice Biennale, and his ultimate success, were the result of a similar a b i l i t y . Such an argument rejects the notion that this success depended solely upon the formal or aesthetic qualities of Shahn's work, and accepts the importance of studying the relationship between his art and the larger social context i n which i t occurred. By studying this relationship, an understanding w i l l emerge of the complexity of America's dominant ideology i n the post-war period and the place of art within i t . The Venice Biennale was not merely a showcase for a r t i s t i c achieve-ments, but a stage on which ideological responses to current national and international events were acted out. Lawrence Alloway compares i t to the great exhibitions of the nineteenth centurys The Biennale, by reason of i t s size, needs to be related also to the giant nineteenth-century exhibitions i n which art from a l l countries was combined with technology and science. This was the usual form of prestige-exhibitions, of which early examples are the Great Exhibition i n London, 1851, and the Exposition TJniverselle i n Paris, 1855* An exhibition i s , i t must be stressed, ideological i n form, a sign-system that i s more than the sum of the separate exhibits that i t contains. Just as these earlier exhibitions broached issues particularly relevant to the expanding industrial societies of the nineteenth century—-"free trade, division of labor, increase i n means of communication, the stimulus of com-petition' 1-—the post-World-War-II Venice Biennales centered around contempor-5 ary social and p o l i t i c a l concerns. One of the most important of these was the ideological battle between the United States and Russia known as the Cold War. That this battle had indeed entered the realm of art was noted by Bernard Denvir i n his review of the 1954 Biennale for the Br i t i s h magazine The A r t i s t : "As this year saw the participation of a number of Iron Curtain 3 countries, one almost inevitably began viewing the Biennale i n terms of c u l -tural 'blocs'."^ There i s no simple explanation of the motivating factors behind the Cold War. The traditional h i s t o r i c a l interpretation of i t as America's attempt to defend the rights of freedom against the onslaughts of communism has been proven wanting by the writings of such revisionist historians as 7 Richard M. Freeland and Gabriel Kolko.' They go beyond the rhetoric of democracy and communism to the economic factors they f e e l to be one of the Cold War's ultimate causes. According to these historians, American foreign policy i n the immediate post-war era was dominated by the concern that another depression would ensue i f the country's wartime production level could not be expanded, or at least Q maintained. The American government f e l t that this expansion or maintenance was possible only i f there existed "an expanding world economy based on the l i b e r a l principles of private enterprise, nondiscrimination, and reduced 9 barriers to trade." y Such was the basis of what became known as the "open-door" policy. But the door was to open only one way, and that was to allow for the free flow of American goods into other countries. The American government insisted on maintaining i t s own preferential t a r i f f s at the same 10 time i t was demanding that other nations abolish theirs. Europe played an important role i n this expanding world economy, both as a marketplace for American products and as a buffer against the westward spread of communism. Kolko explains this importance further: It was this same effort to foster a reformed world economy that compelled the United States to turn i t s attention, with unprecedented energy and expense, to the future of the European continent and Ger-many's special position i n i t . . . . And however weak Europe might be at the moment, the United States had to consider how i t s reemer-gence—with or without Germany—might potentially affect the United States' contemplated role on the Continent should Europe once again assume an independent role. A l l i e d with Russia, or even a resurgent 4 Germany, Western Europe could become the c r i t i c a l , perhaps decisive, factor i n international economic and p o l i t i c a l power. The realization of American goals required the existence of govern-ments in Western Europe that were united i n their support of America's economic policies. But this unity was threatened by the existence, after the war, of strong left-wing and nationalist forces i n the four major Western European nations—Britain, Prance, Germany, and Italy. According to Kolko, "in the spring of 1947 Washington was s t i l l aware of the fact that the primary, immediate threat to America's interests was the emergence of assorted 12 brands of socialism and capitalist nationalism i n Europe." In attempting to prevent these forces from gaining power, the American government estab-lished an economic aid program, the Marshall Plan, which ensured money to 13 those governments wi l l i n g to cooperate with American economic policies. Cooperation with American military objectives was also encouraged through the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) i n 1949 and the subsequent attempt to establish a European Defense Community (EDO) which included Germany. Both the economic and military revitalization of Europe required exceedingly large sums of money which Congress, controlled by the more con-servative and isolationist Republican Party, was i n i t i a l l y unwilling to approve. Congressional approval, though not ultimately a controlling factor i n the formation of American foreign policy at this time,^ was necessary at an ideological level as reassurance to the American public that i t maintained, control over the government's actions through the democratic process. By promoting the image of Russia as an immediate military threat to Europe, and thus to the rest of the non-communist world, the Truman administration suc-ceeded i n 1947 i n overcoming this Republican opposition to i t s European foreign aid program. ' The continued use of these communist-scare tactics 5 over the next decade to jus t i f y military and economic exploits abroad estab-lished the basic tenor of the Cold War, even though such organizations as NATO and the EDC were originally designed to combat internal subversion 16 rather than external Russian attacks. The singleHndndedness with which the American government pursued i t s economic and military objectives i n the late 1940s and early 1950s brought increasing criticisms from the various governments of Western Europe. The exact nature of these criticisms w i l l be discussed later, but their major import was to decrease European confidence i n the v i a b i l i t y of an alliance with America and to prompt a reassessment of the main alternatives to America's international 'open-door9 ^ democracy—socialism, communism, and nationalism. This lack of European confidence i n America threatened not only America's economic well-being, but also i t s sense of national security. In the words of the American p o l i t i c a l historian Robert W. Tucker: No doubt, the radical c r i t i c i s right i n insisting that i n our f o r -eign aid we have sought to promote only such development as i s firmly rooted i n a Capitalist framework because this framework affords the best assurance of our continued freedom of access to raw materials and investments. It i s equally clear, however, that s t i l l another reason i s the fear that any other course of develop-ment, and certainly one that takes a strongly c o l l e c t i v i s t form, would mean that the American example was no longer relevant to much of the world. The prospect of the growing irrelevance of the Ameri-can example must raise, i n turn, the issue of American security i n the greater than physical sense. At least i t must do so i f the proposition i s once accepted that the integrity of the nation's institutions and the quality of i t s domestic l i f e require a con-genial international environment.17 In order to stimulate this flagging European confidence and to reassure Europe that the American, example'was s t i l l relevant,: a massive propaganda cam-paign was undertaken. On 20 April 1950 President Truman, i n an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, stressed the need for a 'campaign of truth' to counteract the negative image of America i n Europe, an image he attributed to the false claims of communism. "Our task," he stated, " i s to 6 present the truth to the millions of people who are uninformed or misin-18 formed or unconvinced." The fine arts, as traditional repositories of •truth', played an important part i n this campaign, appearing i n the.form of international dance performances, music r e c i t a l s , and art exhibitions. In the promotional literature surrounding the American exhibition at Venice an image of Shahn was presented that reflected not only his own i n -dividual concerns, but also the broader national and international interests of the American government. On a general ideological level he represented the notions of freedom, individualism, and humanism i n America. Applied to Italy i n 1954* these notions referred to specific p o l i t i c a l developments, above a l l the previous year's defeat of Alcide de Gasperi's pro-American Christian Democrat government in the Chamber of Deputies and the corresponding increase i n the power of both the Right and the Left. The American govern-ment held that freedom, individualism, and humanism were possible only i n a nation ruled by a democratic government of the Center, a belief that formed 19 the basis of i t s post-war l i b e r a l ideology. By exhibiting a lack of f a i t h i n the De Gasperi government, the Italian Chamber of Deputies was also exhib-i t i n g a lack of f a i t h i n the American l i b e r a l policies that De Gasperi's government supported. The United States had to attempt to restore this f a i t h i n order to assure i t s e l f of Italian support for i t s plans for a unified Europe. The promotion of the art and beliefs of Ben Shahn i n Italy was part of such an attempt. In 1953 the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), drawing from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, purchased the American pavilion at Venice. While the Museum had been the major organizer of the Venice Biennales since the late 1940s, the 1954 Biennale was the f i r s t exhibition organized under i t s new ownership. As part of the Museum's International Exhibitions Program, this Biennale came 7 under the care of Porter McCray, Director of the Department of Circulating 2 0 Exhibitions. The works by de Kooning, Lachaise, Lassaw, and Smith were chosen by Andrew Carnduff Ritchie while James Thrall Soby selected those by Shahn. The choice of de Kooning and Shahn can be explained, to a certain ex-tent, by the o f f i c i a l theme of the Biennale, Surrealism. Participating countries were asked, though not required, to adhere to this theme or at least to the more general theme of fantastic art. De Kooning had been con-nected with the surrealist group i n New York i n the early 1 9 4 0 s and exhibited, in his subsequent s t y l i s t i c development, an emphasis on the concept of psychic.automatism, rather than on the more explicit imagery of surrealist art. Shahn's connection with surrealism can be found i n his association with the American art movement known as magic realism, which supported the sur-r e a l i s t notions of detailed, i n some cases almost photographic, realism and 2 2 bizarre or fantastic imagery. Shahn's work was seldom, though, as bizarre or fantastic as that of the major artists of this movement, notably Peter Blume, Paul Cadmus, George Tooker, and Ivan Albright. The choice of Shahn rather than another of these magic realists needs, therefore, to be explained. While the Museum of Modern Art was a private institution, i t s interests can be connected with those of the federal government on two levels. F i r s t , i t s Board of Trustees contained many of the same prominent businessmen who exerted significant control over American foreign policy. Second, the Museum advocated the same ideological imperatives as the American government. It did so by acknowledging the need for a strong cultural propaganda offensive i n order to counter communist accusations of barbarism and materialism, and by actively and openly participating i n such an offensive. Art was, for MOMA, a weapon i n the Cold War, and i t chose the five artists who would represent 8 23 America at the 1954 Venice Biennale accordingly. Denvir, i n his review of the Biennale, noted; This year marked the beginning of a new era of American art at Venice, for the Pavilion at the Biennale has recently been taken over by the Museum of Modern Art as part of i t s Rockefeller-financed programme of effecting closer cultural contacts between Europe and the U.S.A.^4 As well as supplying essays on the individual artist s for the o f f i c i a l Biennale catalogue, J MOMA published i t s own forty-page catalogue i n English and Italian for free distribution to the press and to any members of the 26 public who specifically requested i t . It included the same essays by Ritchie and Soby as appeared i n the o f f i c i a l catalogue—Ritchie wrote on de Kooning and the three sculptors, Soby on Shahn—as well as a foreword by the Director of MOMA, Rene d*Harnoncourt, biographies of the a r t i s t s , state-ments by Shahn and de Kooning, a l i s t i n g of the major works shown, and twenty-seven il l u s t r a t i o n s . Alfred H. Barr, Jr., MOMA's Director of Museum Collec-tions, also produced an arti c l e on the U.S. exhibition for the o f f i c i a l 27 Biennale publication La Biennale. As these writings were, i n effect, the most important pieces of promotional literature produced by the Museum, close attention must be paid to the particular image they present of Shahn and to how the people at whom this image was aimed—the press and the p u b l i c — 28 responded. An examination of one additional piece of writing w i l l also help i n establishing Shahn's reputation i n Italy i n 1954» and that i s his arti c l e "The Artist and the P o l i t i c i a n . " It appeared i n Art News i n Septem-29 ber 1953 and, two months later, i n the Italian art journal Sele Arte. The discussion that follows, then, w i l l be divided into two major parts: an examination of the p o l i t i c a l situation i n Italy and the American reaction to i t ; and a consideration of the promotional literature and Italian press reaction surrounding the work of Ben Shahn at the 1954 Venice Biennale, with an analysis of two of the works included i n this exhibition—Liberation and 9 The Red Stairway. An attempt w i l l be made to reveal the implications behind Shahn's presence at this Biennale by showing the ideological importance of culture, particularly art, i n America's propaganda offensive; how interna-tional art exhibitions acted as a vehicle for this propaganda; the con-nection between Shahn and American concerns i n Italy as revealed i n the pro-motional literature and press reaction; and the manner i n which Shahn was able to appeal to, almost every sector of the Italian public by combining a broad range of s t y l i s t i c and thematic references i n hi s work. Lawrence Alloway notes that i n the decade after World War II atten-dance at the Venice Biennales ranged from 1 5 0 , 0 0 0 to 2 1 6 , 4 7 1 . He comments further that the size and variety of these crowds made the Biennale "a s i g -nificant factor i n the spreading of knowledge and shaping of taste," and therefore increased the importance of national identity and prestige i n the 30 individual exhibitions. Ben Shahn was sent to Venice as a representative of America, as were de Kooning, Lachaise, Lassaw, and Smith. His success i n Italy, however, was much greater than that of the other four a r t i s t s , p a r t i -cularly de Kooning's. It was achieved due not so much to his a r t i s t i c talents, which were admittedly considerable, as to his a b i l i t y to address the Italian public i n an a r t i s t i c and ideological language which they could understand. With l y r i c a l realism Shahn presented those aspects of American ideology— defender of the poor and oppressed, champion of justice and free speech— that were most appealing both to the poor and oppressed i n Italy and to the e l i t e that ruled them. They were aspects that held the greatest possibility of winning over the allegiances of Italian society from communism and neo-fascism to American democracy. 10 Footnotes •j A similar contrast between abstraction and realism i s found also i n the sculpture i n the American pavilion, where the large, r e a l i s t i c Standing  Woman (1932) by Gaston Lachaise i s combined with the delicate, abstract P i l l a r of Cloud (1954) hy Ibram Lassaw and Hudson River Landscape (1951) by David Smith. These single works were the only sculpturesto appear i n the pavilion, placing, therefore, a greater emphasis on the two large exhibitions of painting. See Dore Ashton, The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning (New York: Viking Press, 1972) , PP. 3 5 . 6 4 . 8 8 . 146; Milton W. Brown et a l . . American  Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Decorative Arts, Photography (Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1979), PP. 4 4 8 , 452-54; and Barbara Rose, American Art Since 1900: A C r i t i c a l History, Praeger World of Art Paperbacks (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967), p. 128. ^The principle of these include Max Kozloff, "American Painting During the Cold War," Artforum 11 (May 1973)s43-54; Eva Cockcroft, "Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Gold War," Artforum 12 (June 1974):39-41» David and Cecile Shapiro, "Abstract Expressionism: The Po l i t i c s of Apolitical Painting," Prospects 3 (1976):175-214; John Tagg, "American Power and Ameri-can Painting: The Development of Vanguard Painting i n the United States Since 1945," Praxis (1976):59-79; and Serge Guilbaut, "Creation et Developpement d'une Avant-Garde: New York 1946-1951»" Histoire et Critique des Arts: Les  Avant-Gardes (July 1978):29-48. See also Serge Guilbaut, "Creation et Developpement d'une Avant-Garde Americaine: Bataille Ideologique Entre Paris et N.Y. 1945-1951 ou Comment New York Kidnappa l a Notion de Modernisme Hors des Mains Parisiennes" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1979). h^^ awrence Alloway, The Venice Biennale 1895-1968: from salon to goldfish  bowl (Greenwich, Connecticut: New York Graphic Society, 1968), p. 3 6 . 5 I b i d . c Bernard Denvir, "Mayfair to Manhattan," The Artist 48 (November 1954)* 3 5 . These Iron Curtain countries included Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. The paintings ranged from traditional social realism to early French impre-ssionism. Russia did not exhibit at this Biennale* Rumania was included as well. R.H. Hubbard also wrote of the 1954 Biennale: "Jury day brought out this cleavage between the communist and non-communist worlds i n an interesting way. The all-day meetings which took place i n the great heat of an Italian summer day resembled a mini-ature United Nations. The polite but insistent French, the diplomatic Bri t i s h and Belgians and Dutch, the ebullient Egyptians—all were there; and the Iron curtain exercised the veto or the nearest thing to i t . For they would vote for no one but the "social r e a l i s t s " and when these were eliminated they would turn i n blank ballots" (R.H. Hubbard, "Show Window of the Arts—XXVII Venice Biennale," Canadian Art 12 (Autumn 1954)s 1 9 - 2 0 ) . 11 7 Richard M. Freeland, The Truman Doctrine and the Origins of McCarthy- ism: Foreign Policy« Domestic P o l i t i c s and Internal Security 1946-48 (New York: Schocken Books, 1974) and Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power:  The World and United States Foreign, Policy (New York: Harper and Row, 1972). g Kolko, Limits of Power, p. 20. 9 Sec. of State James F. Byrnes, U.S. Department of State Bulletin, 26 August 1945t p. 279» quoted i n Kolko, Limits of Power, p. 23. 10 Julian AmerV , Conservative Member of Parliament i i i Britain, wrote i n 1953: "At the present time, the United States i s s t i l l trying to have the best of both worlds. It has tried i n a series of international instruments to dictate the economic policies of the free world. It i s now, however, more unwilling than ever to make i t s own economic policies ^.conform: to the doctrine i t has preached" (Julian Amery, "The American Choice," i n James Burnham, ed., What Europe Thinks of America (New York: John Day Co., 1953). P. 158). 11 Kolko, Limits of Power, pp. 2-3. 1 2 I b i d . , p. 37. 15 ^The attitude of the American government towards financial aid r e c i p i -ents after WWII i s reflected i n a statement by Sec. of State Jamyes F. Byrnes i n 1945: "We cannot play Santa Claus to the world but we can make loans to governments whose credit i s good, provided such governments w i l l make changes i n commercial policies which w i l l make i t possible for us to increase our trade with them" (Sec. of State James F. Byrnes, U.S. Department of State  Bulletin. 18 November 1945» P» 785» quoted i n Kolko, Limits of Power, p. 22). ^According to G. William Domhoff, "American foreign policy during the postwar era was init i a t e d , planned, and carried out by the richest, most powerful, and most international-minded owners and managers of major corporations and financial i n s t i t u -tions. None of the factors that are often of importance on domestic issues—Congress, labor, public opinion—had anything but an occasional and minor effect of foreign policy" (G. William Domhoff, "Who Made Ameri-can Foreign Policy, 1945-1963?" i n JDavid Horowitz, ed., Corporations  and the Cold War (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969), p. 25) . 15 For a detailed analysis of the beginnings of the Cold War see Freeland, The Truman Doctrine. According to Freeland, Russia was too weak, both m i l i -t a r i l y and economically, after the war for i t to have posed a serious threat to Europe. What also increased Congressional opposition to aid to Europe was the existence of a strong Republican Asia-first faction that placed greater impor-tance on helping Chiang Kai Shek's Nationalist forces i n China (Kolko, Limits  of Power, Chapter 22) . 16 Kolko quotes Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg as stating i n 1949 that NATO was not strong enough to discourage a Russian attack and that i t was "chiefly for the practical purpose of assuring adequate defense against internal sub-version"(Kolko7|iimits_of_^ p. 499). 12 17 'Robert W. Tucker, The Radical Left and American Foreign Policy (Baltimore! Johns Hopkins Press, 1971), p. 68. 18 President Harry S. Truman, "Fight False Propaganda With Truth," i n Robert E. Summers, ed., America's Weapons of Psychological Warfare (New York: 1951), P. 28. 19 One of the main textbooks of this new liberalism was Arthur M. Schlesinger's The V i t a l Center: The Pol i t i c s of Freedom (Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n Co., 1949). 20 Because of his extensive p o l i t i c a l background and association with Nelson Rockefeller, Eva Cockcroft describes McCray as "a particularly power-f u l and effective man i n the history of cultural imperialism" (Cockcroft, "Abstract Expressionism," p. 4 0 ) . 21 The Council of the Biennale also suggested that the number of artists whose work was shown be limited. 22 Shahn was included i n the Museum of Modern Art's 1943 exhibition "American Realists and Magic Realists" (Dorothy C. Miller and Alfred H. Barr, eds., American Realists and Magic Realists,,reprint edition (New York: Arno Press for the Museum of Modern Art, 1969), PP. 52-53). 23 -Tor a discussion of private enterprise's control over American foreign policy during the Cold War see Domhoff, "Who Made American Foreign Policy" and Gabriel Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969). Cockcroft's a r t i c l e "Abstract Expressionism" provides an analysis of MOMA's use of art as a Cold War weapon. "^htenvir, "Mayfair to Manhattan," p. 35* 25 Venice, Biennale d'Arte, La Biennale d i Venezia, catalog©, 27th, 1954 (Venezia:Venezla A l f i e r i , 1954). 26 New York, Museum of Modern Art, 2 P i t t o r i : de Kooning, Shahn; 3 Scul- t o r i : Lachaise, Lassaw, Smith. Esposizione organizzata dal Museum of Modern  Art, New York, Venice: Esposizione Biennale Internationale D'Arte XXVII, 1954, Stati Uniti d*America (New York: Marchbanks Press for Museum of Modern Art, 1954). The original 8,000 copies were such a success that an additional 3,000 were printed. The publication of such catalogues had become, by the. 1950s, standard practice for most countries (Alloway, Venice Biennale, p. 141). 27 Alfred H. Barr, Jr., " G l i Stati Uniti A l i a Biennale: Shahn e De Kooning, Lachaise, Lassaw e Smith," Biennale d i Venezia. no. 19-20 (Aprile-Giugno 1954)* 62-67. 28 A United States Information Service (USIS) syndicated a r t i c l e based on information provided by M0MA was also distributed to a number of Italian news-papers. For a l i s t of these newspapers see New York, Museum of Modern Art, "Summary of European Press Reaction to the Exhibition "Two Painters and Three Sculptors From the United States," Shown at the XXVTI Biennale, Venice, June 19-0ctober 17, 1954," 1 October 1956, n.p. (Mimeographed.) 13 Ben Shahn, "L'Artista e i l Politicismo," with a commentary by Carlo Ragghianti, Sele Arte« no. 9 (Novembre-Dicembre 1953)s25-29. 30 Alloway, The Venice Biennale, pp. 139, 141• In the chapter entitled "Art and the Expanding Audience," (pp. 122-31) Alloway discusses the fact that i n the twentieth century art exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale were not limited to a small art e l i t e but were attended by a steadily-: increasing sector of the general public. The situation of the Venice Biennale i n a summer holiday center for both Italians and foreigners would have undoubtedly have added to the variety of i t s audiences. 14 CHAPTER ONE Italians have only three real p o l i t i c a l choices—Communism, neo-Fascism, and Christian Democracy. For those loyal to the Western tradition of democracy, the f i r s t two are unthinkable. H. Stuart Hughes, The United States and Italy, 1953 Italy and American Foreign Policy: Christian Democracy or Nothing In 1953 H. Stuart Hughes, an American historian of Western and Central Europe and chief of the research staff of the Office of Strategic Services for a year i n Italy during World War II, wrote a book entitled The United States 1 and Italy. "The heart of this book," states Donald C. McKay in the intro-duction, " i s recent Italy and i t s interest for, and relation to, the United p States." Hughes l i s t s , i n his f i r s t page of text, the major capacities i n which Italy appeared i n American foreign policy i n 1953: as one of the four great powers of Western Europe—an indispen-sable partner, f i r s t i n the European Recovery Program, now i n the Atlantic Alliance; as a friend i n one World War and an enemy in the next—forgiven and reaccepted into the democratic fraternity, but s t i l l unaccountably excluded from the United Nations; as the t e r r i -t o r i a l headquarters of the Catholic Church, the birthplace of modern fascism, and the home of the largest Communist party i n the non-Communist world.5 In i t s capacity as an indispensable partner i n the efforts toward a a unified Western Europe Italy, since the extablishment of the De Gasperi government in 1945, had constantly favoured American aims. It had, according to Hughes, "worked loyally for the strengthening of every possible t i e among the nations of the West."^ But, by the summer of 1953, the imminent defeat of the De Gasperi government threatened to destroy this partnership. The same year Hughes' book was published, a collection of nine essays edited by James Burnham appeared in a volume entitled What Europe Thinks of America. The authors of these essays were Europeans selected by Burnham 15 and asked to write down their thoughts about America. His selection process, as outlined at length i n the introduction, i s unusual though not surprising, considering the fact that he was one of many ex-Trotskyites who avidly denounced their 1930s communist a f f i l i a t i o n s i n the 1950s: I invited as contributors only proved friends of the West and the United States. I deliberately excluded communists, fellow travel-lers and neutralists . . . . I was interested to hear what Europe thinks of America from observers who are friendly, objective, frank, and loyal, who are w i l l i n g to write without diplomatic reservations what they themselves thought and what they found that others thought . . . . Most of the contributors . . . belong to the Center or the Right . . . . They are not merely noncommunist but anti-communist; they are a l l nonsocialist and I think that a l l or almost a l l are ant i-soc i a l i st• Guido Piovene, journalist for the Turin newspaper La Stampa and author of the book De America, which documented his travels i n America i n 1950-51, was one of the contributors to Burnham's book. In his essay "Ungrateful Europe," he makes the following observation: A sincere European cannot pass up this opportunity to say a few frank words. The excesses of a McCarthy, the ridiculous arbitrary visa requirements, and the exclusion of certain writers and actors have done more harm to the reputation of the United States i n Europe than the withdrawal of a few divisions of troops or a few million dollars. These things represent a real loss of strength. A truly great world power must have understanding of others, of their aims and a b i l i t i e s and of exactly what can be expected of them. Euro-'peans must not get the idea that American c i v i l i z a t i o n , upon which they base so much of .their hope for the future, i s introverted, calculating, narrow and obtuse, with no antennae for capturing ideas other than i t s own. The United States w i l l truly win over Europe by the loftiness of i t s p o l i t i c s and social outlook: i f i t refuses to lower and degrade i t s e l f simply on the pretext of using the same methods as the enemy, and above a l l i f i t shoulders i t s responsi-b i l i t y for the destiny of Europe without ungenerous and moralistic 7 restrictions, as i f this destiny were, as i t i s , tied up with i t s own. The effects of McCarthyism i n Europe were particularly evident i n early 1953* when Roy M. Cohn, the new Chief Counsel for McCarthy's committee, and a friend David Schine, travelled throughout Europe "upbraiding American diplomats supposedly soft on communism, attacking United States Information Service libraries for exhibiting the work of such "radicals" as Mark Twain and Theodore 16 g Dreiser, and provoking the wrath of the European press." But there was also another factor prompting Piovene's condemnations of the excesses of McCarthyism: the development of a similar reactionary climate i n Italy. In supporting De Gasperi's Christian Democrat Party and i t s anti-com-munist platform i n the 1948 elections, largely through Marshall Plan funding, the American government helped assure this party's victory over leftHiring 9 forces. But this victory was not without i t s drawbacks. As Hughes points out, i t brought into power a Christian Democrat Party composed of two d i s -tinct forces: one which stood for "personal liberty and the Western democratic tradition," i . e . De Gasperi and his pro-American followers; and another which maintained i t s allegiance to a fascist nationalism and which rejected Ameri-.10 can interference i n the Italian economy; It was a party similar, i n fact, to the American Republican Party which was made up of both liberals l i k e Eisenhower and reactionaries li k e McCarthy. The ideological strength of the right-wing forces i n both parties lay i n their commitment to anti-communism. In the communist-scare atmosphere of 1948, created to bring about the v i c -tory of the Democrats i n America and the Christian Democrats i n Italy, these right-wing forces gained increasing influence. They were able, through charges of o f f i c i a l 'softness' towards communism, to limit certain actions of the more moderate government leaders, actions which often had l i t t l e to do 11 with the communist threat. By 1953 these reactionary movements, rather than communism, posed the biggest threat to the American government's inter-ests i n Italy. McCarthyism eroded the American democratic image and limited, through Congress, aid to Europe, while Italian neo-fascism threatened the 12 effectiveness of NATO and the achievement of an economically-united Europe. The r e a l i t y of this Italian threat i s commented on by Hughes: The Communist threat i s of course greater i n the sense that a 17 Communist regime would effectively wipe out p o l i t i c a l democracy i n Italy and would deliver the country over to Soviet domination. But the Fascist threat i s more immediate. Neo-Fascism i n power would be milder than Communism . . . however, while a Communist government i s out of the question, the coming to power of a government under Monarchist (and indirectly under neo-Fascist) influence i s a very real p o s s i b i l i t y . ^ Declining i n popularity during the provincial elections of the f i r s t two years of the decade, De Gasperi's Christian Democrats were faced, i n the 1953 Chamber of Deputies and Senate elections, both: with strengthened neo-fascist and monarchist parties and the constant challenge from the Left. The government's last-^ninute changes i n the electoral laws and i t s return to the electoral theme that gained i t victory i n 1948--anti-conmiunist unity behind Christian Democracy, with the addition this .time of anti-neo-fascism—were not enough to win the majority i t needed.^ The Communist Party increased i t s strength i n both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, maintaining i t s 15 position as the major opposition party with 22.6 per cent of the vote. J The neo-fascists (Italian Social Movement) and monarchists (National Monarchist Party) also gained seats i n both Houses. While the gains of the latter two 16 parties were far from sufficient to enable them to form a government, singly or together they could provide De Gasperi with the additional support he needed to ensure an absolute majority. "It was on the Right, then," states Hughes, "that the election had produced the most serious contender for a 17 share i n government responsibility." De Gasperi's unwillingness to deal with these, as well as left-wing, parties resulted i n the defeat of his pro-posed single-party minority government i n the Chamber of Deputies on 28 July 1953. Hughes, i t appears, completed his book prior to this defeat, for he speculates as to the possible route the Italian government might take i f De Gasperi was defeated, a route travelled by a Christian Democracy transformed 18 by right-wing influences into a clerical-corporative movement similar to 18 Mussolini's fascism. Such a 'trasformismo' was actually attempted later that year by De Gasperi's immediate successor, Guiseppe Pella, i n his efforts 19 to meet "the wishes of both the economic and c l e r i c a l Right." Though he was replaced i n February of 1954 hy Antonio Scelba, a Christian Democrat of more centralist leanings, right-wing elements within and outside of the Party 20 continued to exert pressure on the government. Such shifts i n the power structure of the Italian government were, according to Hughes, very much an American problem. For the United States, by i t s prompt decision to back De Gasperi at a l l costs, has assumed a responsi-b i l i t y for the further development of his administration. If Ameri-cans wish to reverse the trend toward c l e r i c a l corporatism, they must take steps i n time to support the Prime Minister against his faint-hearted friends and the r i v a l s who are striving to supplant him. . . . American influence i n Italy i s an accomplished fact: the only question concerns the direction i n which that influence i s to be applied.21 An Italian government controlled by the Right, with i t s nationalist and a n t i -NATO sentiments, would greatly jeopardize America's attempts to establish an 22 economically-united Western Europe. Hughes' suggestions as to the measures necessary to ensure De Gasperi's stay i n power involved the improvement of the American image that De Gasperi supported. Two ways of doing this would have been to lower U.S. t a r i f f barriers and increase the Italian immigration quota, measures that were impossible for the American government to implement due to i t s own reactionary climate at home. Isolationism and mistrust of 23 foreigners were major characteristics of McCarthyism. Even though the United States was unable to prevent the f a l l of De Gasperi, i t continued i t s efforts to discourage Italian support of both right-wing and left-wing p o l i t i c s i n favour of i t s own brand of liberalism, and to improve i t s image i n ways other than lowering t a r i f f s or increasing immigra-tion. One form these efforts took was that of cultural propaganda. 19 Typically, there i s more to v i t a l ideology than a func-tional relationship to everyday problems and efforts on the part of the f a i t h f u l to l i v e by i t s precepts. There must be an iconography: pictures, crosses, sacred words and gestures — a n awe-inspiring symbolism which continuously dramatizes key facets of the dogma. A l i t t l e hagiolatry goes a long way, but the perseverance of any ideology c a l l s for some of this too. Leonard G. Benson, National Purpose, 19&3 A L i t t l e Hagiolatry Goes a Long Way While the United States government could obtain many things through military force or economic pressure, Italian confidence i n America was not one of them. The creation and maintenance of the positive American image necessary to gain this confidence could be obtained only through a massive propaganda effort, and the main governmental agency assigned to this task was the newly-reorganized United States Information Agency (USIA). Created on 1 August 1953 as an independent Agency responsible for a l l U.S. information act i v i t i e s overseas, i t assumed the duties of i t s predecessor, the Interna-tional Information Administration of the Department of State, as well as those 25 of the Technical Cooperation Administration and the Mutual Security Agency. The Agency's mission was, i n the words of President Eisenhower i n October 1953V to submit evidence to peoples of other nations by means of communi-cation techniques that the objectives and policies of the United States are i n harmony with and w i l l advance their legitimate aspira-tions for freedom, progress and peace.2° In Western Europe the Agency's program was designed to promote greater understanding of, and support for, NATO and related collective security measures; to encourage the w i l l to move forward toward unification; to expose the Soviet myth and reduce Soviet influence; and to present to this highly literate area a convincing and inspiring picture of America and i t s policies, both internal and international.^7 The last of these four considerations provides a clue as to the form 20 American propaganda was to take in Europe, the key phrase being "highly l i t e r a t e . According to Thomson and Laves in their book Cultural Relations and U.S. Foreign Policy, the American government acknowledged the need i n their propaganda offensive for "the classification of different countries on the basis of their strategic importance to the United States campaign; the selection i n each country of target groups; and the choice of the most 28 effective materials and media for reaching those groups." Such an approach formed an integral part of USIA tactics. In i t s Fi r s t Review of Operations the following statement appeared: It was recognized that each country presents different problems. Instructions were issued to the f i e l d to re-define the objectives i n each country, with emphasis on reducing them i n number . . . . The criterion i n each instance i s "Does i t help support and explain our foreign policy i n terms of others' legitimate aspirations?" 2? In defining Europe as highly l i t e r a t e , ./the USIA had already singled out one specific broad target group—the lit e r a t e middle and upper classes rather than the largely i l l i t e r a t e lower classes. While the latter, as part of the general voting populace, had to be considered as well, i t was recognized that the majority of power lay within the middle and upper classes. For ex-ample, i n i t s attempts to win over European industry to American production techniques, the American government foeussed i t s attention on "leading per-sonalities i n industry, agriculture, and labour; middle-ranking specialists; and younger persons with a potential for leadership."^ The techniques used to appeal to such an educated audience would necessarily have to avoid, as the USIA put i t , "strident and propagandistic material," which would create 31 suspicion rather than cooperation. The f i r s t few years of Truman's 'cam-paign of truth' had, i n fact, created such a suspicion. Thomson and Laves record the o f f i c i a l reaction to this state of a f f a i r s : The emphasis of the "Campaign of Truth" on urgent and unila-teral propaganda to combat Communism had by 1953 provoked a reaction. The view had emerged that the character of the whole United States 21 information and cultural program had become "too direct, too s h r i l l , too polemical and, i n a sense, too patronizing." Any attempt, i t was argued, to manipulate for nationalistic ends the minds and loyalties of our actual and potential friends abroad was contrary to American principles, and was naturally resented by those whose con-fidence and help we were seeking . . . . While (the above view) re-cognized that the c r i t i c a l character of the situation created by the cold war demanded a policy of vigorous and careful guidance rather than laissez-faire operation, i t held that the program should be honest, calm and moderate, and intellectually mature, and that i t should be directed toward the fundamental attitudes and values of foreign peoples.32 Culture, expecially when narrowly defined as the "higher" arts, played a v i t a l role i n this shift i n policy. The ideological messages contained within "lower" cultural media such as Hollywood films—good (democracy) always wins over e v i l (communism), any hard-working individual can make his or her fortune—might have been consumed unconsciously along with the more obvious plot by a less educated viewing audience, but members of the middle and upper classes were more l i k e l y to have recognized the propagandistic elements in these films and to have regarded them with cynicism. Painting and sculpture, as "fine arts," were generally considered by a l l levels of society to be exempt from p o l i t i c a l concerns. The ideological messages regarding the American way of l i f e contained within these media would there-fore be accepted, along with the aesthetic qualities of the works, as uncri-t i c a l l y by educated people as were the messages i n Hollywood films by the uneducated. The importance of the cultural aspect of America's international image was attested to as early as 1951 i n a report of the Bureau of the Budget i n Washington: The value of international cultural interchange i s to win respect for the cultural achievements of our free society where that re-spect i s necessary to inspire cooperation with us i n world a f f a i r s . In such a situation, cultural a c t i v i t i e s are an indispensable tool of propaganda.33 Europe's impressive cultural inheritance made i t especially c r i t i c a l of that 22 of the United States. The view held by a large number of Europeans, that America was materialistic, barbarous, and uncultured, was strengthened i n the early 1950s by certain actions of the American government. These actions included participation i n the Korean War, pressure on Europe to accept Ameri-can economic and defense policies, and refusals to respond to Russian peace overtures. In the abovementioned book by Burnham, Raymond Aron, a strong supporter of America, author, and leading p o l i t i c a l columnist for the l i b e r a l -right Paris newspaper Le Figaro, questioned "whether there may not be higher 34 cultural values unable to survive the American obsession with productivity." Productivity and culture were, for Aron, antithetical; true culture was, there-fore, non-productive. Guido Piovene, as well, acknowledged the existence of certain anti-American sentiments, which included "derogatory European remarks about "materialism," "standardization," perpetual hurry, the lack of 'savoir-35 vivre' and a r t i s t i c interests." While Russia had long claimed that such 36 was the case in America, open criticisms of this nature from the conser-vative ruling classes of'Europe were more disturbing. Russia's claims could easily be dismissed as communist propaganda; those of Europe could not. What further complicated the issue of America's culture, or lack of i t , was Russia's peace offensive. This offensive included bothCovertures i n the p o l i t i c a l arena and widespread use of cultural a c t i v i t i e s i n relations with non-communist countries. The use of cultural a c t i v i t i e s i n this way was particularly evident after Stalin's death i n 1953s Scientists lecturing to scholarly audiences, musicians playing i n concert halls, and football and other athletic teams performing i n stadia were a l l parts of the same offensive to impress foreign peoples with a favorable picture of l i f e i n the Soviet Union and with the cultural f r u i t s of Communist society. Soviet books were actively flooding into many of the countries of Asia. Often hand-somely produced but subsidized to s e l l at low prices, they ranged from l i t e r a r y classics and elegantly illustrated books on art to children's story books, from volumes by Marx, Engels, and Lenin for ,„ intellectuals to low-cost propaganda pamphlets for the general public.- 3 23 In the Third Review of Operations (july-Decmeber 1 9 5 4 ) , USIA Director Theodore Streibert commented on this cultural offensive: The Communist campaign was noticeably more subtle. It dangled the lure of increased East-West trade before other nations and continu-a l l y stressed the Soviet desire to "ease international tension." Greater numbers of Soviet Bloc "cultural representatives" journeyed to other countries, and more non-Communist vis i t o r s were welcomed at Moscow and Peiping.38 One'main result of this offensive was the improvement of Russia's image i n Europe. Italy's response can be found i n the warning by Piovene: I am writing these lines during the Russian "peace offensive." Incidently, I must c a l l attention to the fact that a l l over Europe the students and athletes of Soviet Russia invariably draw public applause. Is the applause communist in character? Does i t mean that Europe wishes to f a l l under Russian domination? No, neither of these suppositions i s true. But Soviet Russia has spoken of peace without demanding capitulation, and this i s quite enough to arouse a popular response. As for cultivated people, many of them fear that the United States may shatter a precarious peace by making demands the satisfaction of which seems to us unimportant.39 As so much of the rationale behind American foreign policy depended on the existence of an oppressive, tyrannical, barbarous image of Russia, as opposed to adjust, cultured, freedom-loving image of America, the threatened disappearance of both these images i n Europe was of real concern to the United States government.^ And while i t was pointed out earlier that the greatest immediate problem for America i n Italy was the rise of the Right, this country s t i l l contained the largest active Communist Party i n the non-communist world. An improvement i n Russia's image would, inevitably, result i n i n -creased support for the Italian Communist Party.^ While the United States could do l i t t l e to stop the Russian peace offen-sive, i t could increase i t s efforts to convince Europe of the high quality of American, as opposed to Russian, culture. The fine arts,,were important i n furthering this objective, and the most effective means of conveying American achievements i n the areas of painting and sculpture was the international art exhibition. 24 The foreword of the catalogue of the Venice Biennale of 1954 uses the phrase "artium portus," haven of the arts, to describe this exhibition . . ; . The f i r s t Biennial took place i n 1895 with 15 countries participating, a l l of them European except for the United States. In 1954, 52 countries are represented, including Australia, and five from Asia,=four from Latin America and two from North America. Of the 18 European nations four are from behind the Iron Curtain. Merely from the standpoint of this representa-tion i t may be understood why the Biennale i s looked upon as the great gathering place of contemporary art. It i s more than "artium portus:" i t i s "artium spectaculum omnium terrarum," a show window for the art of the whole world. R.H. Hubbard, Canadian Art magazine, 1954 Artium Spectaculum Omnium Terrarum In June 1951 Eloise Spaeth, speaking to members of the American Federa-tion of the Arts on the need for government-funded art exhibitions abroad, made the following observation: Everyone i n the State Department with whom I have spoken . . . knows only too well how our prestige suffers by our not having a strong consistent program geared to show the world that other facet of Ameri-can l i f e — t h e part that i s the heart and soul of any people—their creative l i f e . 42 She commented further on the role of exhibitions i n 1953 i n a review of an exhibition of American art i n India: The arts of a country should be so integrated into the l i f e of a country that any comprehensive exhibition going forth would act as a mirror. The stranger should be able to look into i t and see reflected there the v i t a l i t y , the creativity, the spi r i t u a l force of the country—yes, the confusion, diversity and materialism also.43 By being able to portray both the positive and negative aspects of American society, American art was presented by Spaeth as representative of the true freedom and honesty to be found i n that country—the freedom to c r i t i c i z e without being censured, the honesty to admit certain f a u l t s . ^ • : Contrary to the opinion of the French c r i t i c Aron, Spaeth found art and materialism not only quite compatible, but, along with v i t a l i t y , s p i r i t u a l force, confusion 25 and diversity, basic characteristics of American l i f e . The international art exhibition was the mirror i n which these characteristics and this l i f e were reflected. Spaeth's campaign for more government funding of art exhibitions abroad ran into d i f f i c u l t i e s when these exhibitions included modem art. Even though this art was ideal both for conveying the notions of freedom and individualism and for convincing the e l i t e of Europe's art world of America's relatively 4-5 advanced aesthetic development, i t was attacked by the forces of McCarthy-46 ism, notably Senator George Dondero of Michigan, as communistic. These attacks made open support of modern art by the government extremely d i f f i -cult, with the result that the promotion of modern art abroad became the responsibility of private agencies, though often with indirect funding from the federal government.^ This shift i n emphasis from public to private support occurred at a l l levels of informational a c t i v i t i e s . While the r e -organization of these a c t i v i t i e s i n 1953 under the USIA resulted i n general cutbacks i n funding, the only Agency activity to receive an increase was the Office of Private Cooperation, whose budget was doubled. The rationale behind such a move i s found i n the USIA's F i r s t Review of Operations: V/e are convinced that the maximum of business and other non-governmental actions and services>_must be marshaled behind the Government's information program. This has been demonstrated to be one of the most effective ways to strengthen the entire pro-gram. 4° Private agencies rather than the American government, therefore, became representative of the daring and avant-garde s p i r i t i n America. Barr spelled this out clearly i n his a r t i c l e for La Biennale: "Private ownership of the American pavilion w i l l ensure, the Museum feels, a progressive s p i r i t that i s free from censure."^ Denvir voiced a similar view: "At the (1954) Biennale at least, a r t i s t i c conservatism and Communism go hand i n hand, whilst free 5 enterprise i s linked to the more adventurous forms of a r t i s t i c explorations." 2 6 The Museum of Modern Art was the major private institution to promote American modern art abroad. Its assumption of this task was due both to a genuine belief i n the aesthetic qualities of this art and, as was mentioned earlier, to a vested interest i n the American foreign policy objectives that 51 modern art furthered. The bulk of this promotion was done through i t s International Circulating Exhibitions Program, begun in 1 9 5 2 with a f i v e -year grant of $ 6 2 5 , 0 0 0 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. According to RussellLynes i n his book Good Old Modern: An Intimate Portraittof the Museum  of Modern Art, the purpose of this Program was "to let i t be known especially i n Europe that America was not the cultural backwater that the Russians, during that tense period called 'the cold war', were trying to demonstrate 52 that i t was." The same Rockefeller Brothers Fund provided the money to purchase the American pavilion at Venice in 1 9 5 5 * and i t was under the Inter-national Program that the American exhibition at the 1 9 5 4 Venice Biennale was 53 organized. Because of the absence of government-organized exhibitions of modern art abroad, MOMA's international exhibitions were seen as indications not merely of i t s own personal tastes, but of the tastes of the American nation as a whole. This was particularly true of the Venice Biennale, where a l l pavilions 54 with the exception of the American were government-owned.^ In condemning the Museum's "dictatorial powers" in his review of the 1 9 5 4 Biennale, the American art c r i t i c F. Taubes, an avid supporter of traditional as opposed to modem art, pointed out that "these shapers of the " o f f i c i a l " i t a s t e in-art are the ones who arrange international shows and thus they are in the position 55 to misrepresent us abroad." The Venice Biennale, as "the largest, the most international,and the most publicized exhibition of contemporary art," was more, then, than simply 27 a showplace for individual talent; i t was an important arena for the presen-ce tation of national ideologies and cultural achievements. R. Melville, i n his review of the 1 9 5 4 Biennale for the BBC publication The Listener, referred to 5 7 the separate exhibitions as "the temporary emblems of national dignity." This Biennale was part of"America's larger propaganda offensive, and i n light of the new emphasis on certain tac t i c a l considerations within this offensive —•the gearing of information to the strategic importance of certain countries and to the legitimate aspirations of particular target groups within these countries—the exhibition of Ben Shahn's work i n 1 9 5 4 can be seen as aimed at a specific country and at specific target groups within this country. The country was Italy, and the main target group those Italians who had lost f a i t h i n the superiority of the American p o l i t i c a l system and way of l i f e , and who were beginning to look favourably at the options offered by both the Right and the Left. In the early 1 9 5 0 s Ben Shahn was a strong advocate of the l i b e r a l p o l i -cies of both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, openly attacking 58 McCarthyites and communists alike i n America. His well-known admiration for Italy, coupled with this support of the American government, made him an ideal person to send to Venice i n 1 9 5 4 » In order to f u l l y appreciate the effectiveness of Shahn and his work, i t w i l l help to look b r i e f l y at the response to the other major exhibition of painting i n the American pavilion, that of Willem de Kooning. The generally unfavourable nature of this re-sponse can be attributed to the failure of de Kooning's art to maintain the ideological relevance that had made abstract expressionism so successful earlier i n the decade. 28 The next logical step took the form of a disparagement of Parisian painting i n creating new c r i t e r i a of quality, using as standards the purely "American1' characteristics of violence, force, gran-deur, spontaneity and lack of f i n i s h . Serge Guilbaut, Histoire et Critique des Arts journal, 1 9 7 8 De Kooning; Innovation and Aggression The ascendancy of the United States i n the realm of p o l i t i c s after World War II was accompanied, according to certain American writers and politicians, 59 by an ascendancy i n the realm of art. The notion that after the war New York replaced Paris as the center of modern art, i s also a familiar one i n surveys of Western art. For example, Helen Gardner's Art Through the Ages states: "Abstract Expressionism carries a l l before i t after World War II, especially i n America, to which the a r t i s t i c center of gravity appears to shift from E u r o p e . S u c h a shift meant that New York's abstract expressionists 61 now represented the latest development i n the history of modern art. This quality of newness or "most recent" was important i n an era of accelerated 6 2 technological advance, where i t was generally equated with "better." By appearing as the latest link i n the chain of modern art, abstract expressionism was meant to impress the more advanced sector of the European art world, and the ruling classes that this sector represented. For the more general viewing public, whether i n America or Europe, abstract expressionism was at best, incomprehensible, at worst, an affront to the word art. The reaction to de Kooning's work at the 1 9 5 4 Venice Biennale indicates that what l i t t l e favourable response existed did, i n fact, come from the avant-garde sector of the European art world. According to a press analysis of this Biennale compiled by MDMA i n 1 9 5 6 , reproductions of de Kooning's work appeared "only i n the more advanced periodicals," and the only magazine to request material on him for an art i c l e was the Italian "avant-garde publication . ~ 29 63 Spazio." y But the response of this, and other, sectors of the art world was generally either neutral or unfavourable. It was a response that cen-tered, most notably i n the French press, on the failure of the a r t i s t ' s work to maintain the advanced character that had been abstract expressionism's Lie 65 strong point three or four years e a r l i e r . ^ Phrases such as "too f a c i l , " "boring," and "lacking i n freshness" pointedly conveyed this attitude. G. Mario Marini, i n the Roman current art events periodical Notiziarioqd'Arte, commented: "For de Kooning we w i l l not use much paper, not because he isn't an a r t i s t worthy of serious consideration, but because i n him form and content present problems identical to those that we find i n almost a hundred other European painters."^ These criticisms indicate that the quality of innovation was no longer perceived as an attribute of abstract expressionism by the European art world that this art was particularly meant to impress. By 1954 "almost a hundred other painters" were involved i n the same formalistic experiments as the American abstract expressionists. Two c r i t i c s — t h e American Alfred Barr, Jr., and the Englishman Bernard Denvir—even went so far as to attempt to d i s -associate de Kooning from the accepted meaning of abstract expressionism, i . e . total non-objectivity. Though de Kooning was the most influential abstract expressionist, claims Barr, he was also the one "who has so strongly moved away from abstraction," to include "e x p l i c i t " or "at least identifiable" sub-67 ject matter. Denvir describes de Kooning, along with Francis Bacon, as "unfettered by slavish traditionalism, and yet immune from the worst ex-6 8 cesses of formalism." In other words, de Kooning's art was somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, an image that corresponds nicely to American l i b e r a l i s m . ^ If de Kooning fai l e d to convince Europe of America's inventiveness, he 30 succeeded, at least, i n convincing i t of another American a t t r i b u t e — i t s aggressiveness. His Woman series (Figure 1) evoked a particularly negative response from European reviewers, Alain Jouffroy describing them as "horrible" 70 and "violent" i n Beaux-Arts, and Mario Marini as "disproportionate, con-torted, mutilated, unrecognizably transformed (and) repulsive" i n Notiziario 71 d'Arte. Individuality, innovation, and aggressiveness were three key "American" qualities thathadbaen attributed to abstract expressionism at the 72 turn of the decade. But this latter quality of aggression did not have the same positive connotations i n 1954 that i t had had i n the late 1940s, when Europe was relying on America to act decisively on the question of European reconstruction; when Russia's peace offensive was s t i l l i n i t s early stages and had yet to prompt widespread European questioning of America's "peaceful" intentions; and when Europeans s t i l l hoped that this aggression would contri-bute to the creation of a stable world order. America's involvement i n Korea from 1950 to 1953 and i t s massive rearmament program had caused Europe to be-come increasingly c r i t i c a l of three major aspects of American foreign policy: military interference i n Third World countries; unwillingness to respond to Russian peace offers; and pressures on Europe to comply with American economic 73 and military policies. Europeans, according to Piovene, "feel that the United States i s dragging them into war i n the defense of interests on which 7 A a compromise i s possible." Barr included a quote i n his La Biennale a r t i c l e i n which de Kooning described art as "not peaceful," 'enveloped i n the melodrama of vulgarity," 75 and "uncomfortable." It was, unfortunately for the American government, an accurate description of many Europeans* view of the United States i n 1954* Where de Kooning's paintings were meant to embody the positive aspects of American aggression—among them this aggression's a b i l i t y to safeguard freedoms DO NOT COPY 31 Figure 1. Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 1950-52 Museum of Modern Art, New York (Harold Rosenberg, de Kooning. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1974. Plate 93) 32 and liberate the oppressed—-the European public saw only negative connota-tions. The ideological message had backfired. Be Kooning f a i l e d , then, to win for America the respect and good feeling that were lacking i n Europe in 1954. His art was aimed, specifically, at an avant-garde art world that had already tired of abstract expressionist tech-niques and at a ruling class that had become c r i t i c a l of American aggression. It was directed at no country i n particular, for one of this art's ideologi-76 cal qualities was i t s "universality?" -It was an art that knew no national boundaries, as America's economic trade policies were to know no national boundaries. But i n a climate of r i s i n g nationalist sentiment, particularly in Italy, this universality was a negative rather than a positive quality. Where de Kooning f a i l e d , Shahn met with overwhelming success, a success due i n large part to the timeliness of the ideological messages embodied i n his work. H. Lester Cooke, the Director of the American pavilion i n Yenice, included the following observation i n his summary of the public response to Shahn's work: Americans owe a debt of gratitude not only to Shahn but to the Museum of Modern &rt of New York which privately financed and organized the present exhibition. "It was an intelligent thing to do" writes a Rome correspondent,""these paintings have done more for the prestige of the United States than any other exhi-bition of American art sent to Europe.77 Exactly how Shahn's work was able to contribute to this prestige, particularly i n Italy, w i l l now be examined. 33 Footnotes •4 H. Stuart Hughes, The United States and Italy (Cambridge, Mass.: Har-vard University Press, 1953). ^Ibid., p. i x . ^Ibid., p. 1. 4 I b l d . , p. 219. ^James Burnham, ed., What Europe Thinks of America (New York: John Day Co., 1953). ^Ibid., pp. v i i , x, x i i . 7 Guido Piovene, "Ungrateful Europe," in Burnham, What Europe Thinks  of America, p..132. Q Walter LaFeber, America, Russia, and the Cold. War 1945-1975. 3rd ed. (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976), p. 141. Early in 1953 McCarthy reached the height of his power when he was appointed as head of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations i n the Republican-controlled Congress. 9 "In January 1947 De Gasperi visited the United States, returning with a $100 million loan and advice to eliminate the Communist-Nenni coalition from the Rome government" (Kolko, Limits of Power, p. 348). See also ibid.., P. 458 For a table of the election results see Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Rome, Ten Years of Italian Democracy 1946-1956 (Rome: Apollon, 1957), PP. 76-77. ^°Hughes, The United States and Italy, p. 144. 11 For an excellent series of essays on the vested interests of certain sectors of American society i n the anti-communist campaign see Robert G r i f f i t h and Athan Theoharis, The Spectre: Original Essays on the Cold War and the  Origins of McCarthyism (New York: New Viewpoints, 1974). 12 Of the more extreme neo-fascists i n the Monarchist Party Hughes writes: "Fanatically republican and even socialist i n their platform vocabulary, un-compromisingly hostile to the Atlantic alliance, this radical wing, which originally gave the MSI i t s characteristic color, now represents an embar-rassment and a danger to the responsible leaders of the party" (Hughes, The  United States and Italy, p. 2 2 2 ) . 1 5 I b i d . , pp. 229-30. ^The CD Party managed to pass a law which, among other things, gave a bonus of eighty-five seats to any coalition of parties that polled a minimum of 50.01 per cent of the popular vote. This would give such a coalition a comfortable majority i n the Chamber of Deputies. But De Gasperi's coalition did not collect enough votes to qualify for the bonus in 1953. For a f u l l 3 4 explanation of this law see Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Ten  Years, pp. 7 5 - 7 7 . The Center coalition of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberals, and Republicans gained an absolute majority i n the Senate and a simple major-i t y i n the Chamber of Deputies. But De Gasperi's unwillingness to cooperate with the l e f t i s t wing of the Social Democrats ruled out the inclusion of mem-bers of this party as active participants i n the government, and with i t that party's support. 15 The major opposition party i n Italy since after the war had been the Communist Party. After having refused to follow the lead of i t s French counterpart and resign from the Italian government in 1 9 4 7 * the Italian Communist Party forced De Gasperi to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies and Senate and c a l l another election. It subsequently entered into an alliance with the Italian Socialist Party to form the Peoples' Bloc and to win 1 1 5 of the 4 9 9 seats i n the Chamber of Deputies and 7 2 of the 2 3 7 seats i n the Senate. In the 1 9 5 3 elections the Communist Party alone won 1 4 3 seats i n the Chamber, with the Socialist Party gaining an additional 7 5 , out of a total of 5 8 7 . The figures were 5 4 and 28 respectively i n the Senate. In these same two elections the Christian Democrats dropped from 3 0 5 to 2 6 2 seats i n the Chamber and from 131 to 1 1 6 seats i n the Senate. For a f u l l set of figures see Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Ten Years, pp. 7 6 - 7 7 . 16 These parties held a combined total of 6 9 seats i n the 1 9 5 3 Chamber and 2 5 i n the Senate. 1^Hughes, The United States and Italy, p. 2 2 9 . 18 Ibid., p. 2 3 0 . For an analysis of c l e r i c a l corporatism i n Italy see i b i d . , pp. 6 9 - 9 8 . ^H. Stuart Hughes, The United States and Italy, revised ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1 9 6 5 ) , p. 2 0 1 . See also "A Premier Goes Skiing: Italy's Pella Quits i n the climax of a c r i s i s months i n the making," Li f e . 18 January 1 9 5 4 * P. 3 8 . 2 0 Amintore Fanfani was Pella*s immediate successor but he remained i n power for only two weeks. 21 Hughes, The United States and Italy, p. 2 3 1 . 2 2 I b i d . , p. 7 9 . 25 ^Ibid., pp. 2 3 3 - 3 4 . The sources of this isolationism i n America and i t s effects on American foreign policy are discussed f u l l y i n LeRoy N. Rieselbach, The Rooteof Isolationism: Congressional Voting and Presidential Leadership  In Foreign Policy (Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1 9 6 6 ) . ^^Donald C. McKay commented i n the introduction to Hughes' book: "A truly effective Atlantic Community can never be forged solely from weapons and economic strength. Beneath and supporting these more obvious instruments of cooperation must be the mutual knowledge and understanding of the partners (Hughes, The United States and Italy, p. i x ) . 35 The USIA, formerly the United States Information Service (USIS), was reorganized because of McCarthy's intensive attacks throughout the f i r s t half of 1 9 5 3 * Per an account of the nature of these attacks see Charles A. Thomson and Walter H.C. Laves, Cultural Relations and U.S. Foreign Policy (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1 9 6 3 ) , PP. 9 9 - 1 0 9 , and Martin Merson, The Private Diary of a Public Servant (New York: Macmillan, 1 9 5 5 ) . ^United States Information Agency,(USIA), F i r s t Review of Operations (August-December 1953):n.p. (Foreword). Ibid., p. 5 . 2 7 I b i d . , p. 3 0 . 28 Thomson and Lave 2 9USIA, F i r s t Revi ^Thomson and Lave 31TTGTA Cultural Relations ( P. 8 7 . ' P. 7 . Cultural Relations. P. 9 2 . , P. 7 . Cultural Relations. P. 3 6 . 33 •^Quoted in i b i d . , p. 8 6 . ^^Raymond Aron, "The United States as the Dominant Economy," i n Burnham, What Europe Thinks of America, p. 2 1 0 . 35 •^Piovene, "Ungrateful Europe," p. 1 2 3 . * 6 . According to Senator William Benton i n Congress on 2 2 March 1 9 5 0 , the basic attacks by Russia on the U.S. were: " F i r s t . The United States i s headed for a cataclysmic economic crash. Second. The rulers of the United States are fascists, warmongers, and monopolists. Third. Although the r i c h i n the United States are getthing richer, everybody else i s getting poorer and there i s starvation, unrest, and growing sympathy for the Soviet Union among the masses. Fourth. America's vaunted freedom i s a fraud, and our doctrine of equality i s belied by r a c i a l and religious discrimination. F i f t h . Our character i s bad—we are culturally barbarous, money-mad, lawless, crime-ridden, and effete" (in Thomson and Laves, Cultural  Relations, p. 7 9 ) . 37 J Ibid., p. 2 7 . In September of 1 9 5 3 a collection of Indian paintings, drawings and sculpture were being shown i n the USSR, an exhibit arranged by the Soviet Fine Arts Association (Staff Reporter, "International Art Exhi-bition i n Calcutta," n.p. or name;Jof newspaper, 8 September 1 9 5 3 » found i n Ben Shahn Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C). 36 ^United States Information Agency, Third Review of Operations (July-December 1954): inside cover. 39 J Piovene, "Ungrateful Europe," pp. 125-26. Piovene's elitism shows through i n his contrast between the "popular" and "cultivated" responses to Russia's peace offensive, and his presentation of the latter as more discerning than the former. ^According to Kolko, the Russians were aware of the manner i n which the U.S. was using them as a psychological threat, particularly i n the issue of German rearmament. Therefore, "at the beginning of 1949 they not only i g -nominiously withdrew a l l their immediate demands on Germany but also em-barked on an overwhleming world peace propaganda campaign" (Kolko, Limits  of Power, p. 502). ^The Communist Party had maintained i t s position i n Italian p o l i t i c s largely through the advocation of reformist rather than revolutionary p o l i -cies, thus adding to the creation of a non-threatening image of communism i n Italy. ^ 2 E l o i s e Spaeth, "America's Cultural Responsibilities Abroad," College  Art Journal 11 (Winter 1951-52):118. AX ^ E l o i s e Spaeth, "Synthesis of Arts i n America: 20 Contemporaries," The  Hindustan Times Art Supplement, 6 May 1953* P» 2. Spaeth was Chairperson of the Exhibition Committee of the American Federation of Arts. ^The existence of this freedom to c r i t i c i z e allowed the criticisms voiced to be incorporated into the dominant ideology as essential parts of the larger whole. For a discussion of this notion of incorporation see Raymond Williams, "Base and Superstructure i n Marxist Cultural Theory," New  Left Review, no. 82 (November-December 1973)*1-16. ^See Serge Guilbaut, "Creation et Developpement d'une Avant-Garde Ameri-caine: Bataille Ideologique Entre Paris et N.Y. 1945-1951 ou Comment New York Kidnappa l a Notion de Modernisme Hors des Mains Parisiennes" (Ph.D. disser-tation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1980). For a discussion of these attacks see Jane de Hart Matthews, "Art and P o l i t i c s i n Cold War America," American Historical Review 81 (October 1976): 762-87 and Frances Pohl, "The 'Campaign of Truth' i n American Art," paper presented at the Second Annual Mark Goodson Symposium on American Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 23 A p r i l 1979* ^The involvement of the CIA i n supporting and controlling, through v a r i -ous trust funds and foundations, the promotion of culture during the Cold War i s documented i n Christopher Lasch, "The Cultural Cold War," Nation 204 (11 September 1967):198-212. ^8USIA, Fi r s t Review, p. 3. 4 9 B a r r , "Gli Stati Uniti", p. 62. I'A Denvir, , rMayfair to Manhattan," p. 35 37 51 That such a belief i n the quality of modern American art existed i s presented clearly i n Russell Lynes, Good Old Modern: An Intimate Portrait  of the Museum of Modern Art (New York: Atheneum, 1973). F o r works that deal with ttie connections between the Museum and the American government see foot-note 23 i n the Introduction of this paper. 5 2 I b i d . , p. 384. -"^ The Rockefeller Brothers Pond and the Rockefeller Foundation were the two agencies through which the Rockefeller family made their millions of dollars of o f f i c i a l donations to the Museum for such things as building addi-tions, education programs, and exhibition programs. es, Good Old Modern, p. 385. The following quote from Lynes i s a brief post-war history of the American pavilion at Venice: "The Museum also bought the United States pavilion at the Venice Biennale from the Grand Central Art Galleries, which had been built i n 1929 for i t s own shows when they were an artist's cooperative gallery. After the war the pavilion was made available to the Museum, and the shows sent there were selected by Barr and Sweeney and Dorothy Miller. The federal government (which meant the State Department) was not interested i n taking i t • over,and was unmoved by the fact that i t was the only pavilion at the Bien-rnale that was not owned by i t s nation's government. The internationally minded staff and trustees of the Museum were shocked that America should not be represented at this most prestigious, i f intensely p o l i t i c a l , inter-national art show where a l l the European countries and Russia were blowing their cultural horns while America, i n a manner of speaking, stayed home and sucked i t s thumb,. . . . From 1954 to 1962, without government help, the Museum made i t s e l f responsible for exhibitions by distinguished American artists at Venice"(p. 385). •^F. Taubes, "What i s the World Painting Today," American Arti s t 19 (February 1955):59. 56 ' Denvir, "Mayfair to Manhattan," p. 35. 5 7R. Melville, "The Venice Biennale," The Listener 52 (29 July 1954):180. -^In Kolko's view, there was very l i t t l e difference between the two ad-ministrations: "Eisenhower's somewhat heavier u t i l i z a t i o n of businessmen i n his administrations should not obscure the fact that many of them had already gained their experience under Truman, but especially that they shared the same goals, and represented the same power constituencies, as those that preceded and followed Eisenhower's government . . . ."(Kolko, Limits of Power, p. 677). 59 In 1946 Clement Greenberg s t i l l f e l t that "Paris remains the fountain-head of modern art, and every move made there i s decisive for advanced art elsewhere—which i s advanced precisely because i t can respond to and extend the vibrations of that nerve-center and nerve-end of modernity which i s Paris" ("The School of Paris: 1946," i n Clement Greenberg, Art and Culture:'Critical. Essays (Boston: Beacon Press, 196l), p. 120). Three years later he i s w i l l i n g to suggest that "three or four of (the abstract expressionists) are able to match anything being done by artists of the same generation elsewhere i n the world." He i s even willi n g to "hazard the opinion that they are actually 38 ahead of the French artists who are their contemporaries i n age!* ("Sympo-sium: The State of American Art," Magazine of Art 4 2 (March 1 9 4 9 ) :92). By 1 9 5 3 a l l doubt as to their superiority had vanished. "Do I mean that the new American abstract painting i s superior on the whole to.the French?" he asked. "I do," was his answer ("Contribution to a Symposium," 1 9 5 3 * i n Art and Culture, p. 1 2 5 ) . After the war American politicians presented their country as the pro-tector of Western art and culture against the communist hordes,and the "sole guarantor of the avant-garde s p i r i t " (John Tagg, "American Power and American Painting," p. 6 6 ) . 6 0 Helen Gardner, Art Through the Ages, sixth ed., revised by Horst de l a Croix and Richard G. Tansey (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1 9 7 5 ) , P. 7 7 2 . Burton Wasserman also comments: "By 1 9 4 5 , with the end of World War II a very distinct, new direction took shape. An image unlike anything before i t appeared i n the work of several painters who can be grouped together with the collective name: Post World War II School of New York . . . . While the new movement owed many debts of gratitude to earlier art i s t s i t was also a break-away from most of what had come before" (Burton Wasserman, Modern Painting:  The Movements, the Artists, Their Work (Worcester, Mass.: Davis Publications,1970 ) p. 87). See also H.W. Janson, History "of Art: A survey of the Major Visual Arts  From the Dawn of History to the Resent Day, second ed., (Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1 9 7 7 ) , PP. 6 6 3 - 7 3 and Gina Pischel, A World History of Art:  Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Decorative Arts, revised and expanded ed. (Oxford: Phaidon, 1 9 7 5 ) , pp. 7 0 4 - 0 7 . 61 See footnote 3 of Introduction to this paper for a l i s t of articles dealing with this issue. 6 2 This was particularly true i n light of the nuclear arms race, where the TJ.S.*s a b i l i t y to keep one step ahead of the Russians was seen as v i t a l for the nation's security. 65 M^OMA, "Press Reaction," p. 3« The a r t i c l e i n Spazio was to be written by the French c r i t i c Michel Tapie de Celeyran, but the magazine ceased pub-li c a t i o n before the ar t i c l e was written. As w i l l be seen later, many articles were written on Shahn i n various magazines and newspapers. The last three pages of MOMA's press review l i s t the major of these a r t i c l e s . ^The French art world would obviously not have taken kindly to America's claims of ascendancy over Parisian art. France would also have resented the strong pressure from the American government i n the early 1 9 5 0 s to abandon i t s opposition to the European Defence Community. According to LaFeber, Sec. of State John Foster Dulles warned i n mid-December 1 9 5 3 that "France must r a t i f y or face an "agonizing reappraisal" by Washington of American commit-ments to Europe" (LaFeber, Cold War, p. 1 6 9 ) . ^Leon Degand, "La Biennale de Venise," Art d'Aujourd'hui 5 (Septembre 1 9 5 4 ) : 6 5 and Alain Jouffroy, from an ar t i c l e i n Beaux-Arts (Paris), quoted in MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 1 0 . The t i t l e of the article and the date were not given. 6 6 G. Mario Marini, Notiziario d'Arte, no. 6 - 7 , 1 9 5 4 , quoted i n MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 9 . T i t l e of a r t i c l e and page not given. Tachisme, or 39 'art autre' was well-established i n France i n the early 1950s, at the same time that the Italian arti s t s Afro and Santomaso were introducing the Italian public to home-grown abstract expressionism. See Dore Ashton, "Avantgardia: Reflections from Rome on the avant-garde movements,in Italy and.America during the last decade," Arts Digest 29 (15 March 1955):16-17, 34. 6 7Barr, "Gli Stati Uniti," p. 65. 68 Denvir, "Mayfair to Manhattan," p, 35. 69 Another similarity between abstract expressionism and American l i b e r -alism i s described by Clement Greenberg in 1949 when he talks of this new art as "one of the few manifestations of our time uninflated by illegitimate con-tent-Hio religion or mysticism or p o l i t i c a l certainties. And in i t s radical inadaptibility to the uses of any interest, ideological or institutional, l i e s the most certain guarantee of the truth with which i t expresses us" ("Art Chronicle: Our Period Style," Partisan Review 15 (November 1949):1138). This "end to ideologies" was an important, though misleading, l i b e r a l concept, for i t actually meant an end to only right- and left-wing ideologies i n favour of an ideology of the center (see Daniel B e l l , The End of Ideology: On the  Exhaustion of P o l i t i c a l Ideas i n the F i f t i e s (New York: Collier, 1961)). By abandoning recognizable content, abstract expressionism differentiated i t s e l f from the art and ideologies of both the Left and the Right, and thus aligned i t s e l f with the " v i t a l center." It was able, i n so doing, to avoid most of the McCarthyite accusations of subversive subject matter levelled at modern art by such figures as Senator Dondero. Abstract expressionist artists such' as Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell were included i n Dondero's l i s t s of subversives but, because they had abandoned p o l i t i c a l involvements along with recognizable content, they did not receive the same individual attention givern to such artists as Shahn or Yasuo Kuniyoshi. Abstract expressionism was accused, though, along with the rest of modern art, of contributing to the degeneration of American culture and the weakening of the nation's moral fiber, and thus making i t easier for the Russian forces to take over. Some Americans also claimed that certain abstract paintings disclosed "weak spots i n U.S. fortifications and such crucial constructions as Boulder Dam" (Jules Langsner, "Art News from Los Angeles," Art News 50 (December 1951):52). 70 ' Jouffroy, i n MOMA "Press Reaction," p. 10. 71 Marini, i n i b i d . , p. 9 . MOMA's summary of the European press reaction describes the response to de Kooning's Woman series as follows: "As i n the United States, de Kooning's Woman series fascinated and outraged many c r i t i c s . Some found their expressionism boring, others distasteful, others questioned their intense ferocity" (MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 9 ) . 72 Guilbaut, "Avant-garde," Les Avant-gardes, p. 39. 73 In March 1951 the United States had completed i t s f i r s t successful thermonuclear test at Eniwetok Island i n the Pacific. The following year saw the launching of the f i r s t atomic-energy-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, which was part of that years $60 b i l l i o n defense budget, and the development of the B-52 bomber. The establishment of the system of nuclear stockpiling created, as early as 1951, a supply of 750 to 1000 nuclear bombs in the United States (Kolko, Limits of Power, p. 669). 40 Sylvan Troeder, i n "American Anti-Colonialism: The North African Experi-ence," found i n Burnham, What Europe Thinks of America (pp. 90-108), ela -borates on Europe's attitude towards American involvement i n Third World countries. He states that this involvement raised the basic question i n European minds: "Is i t possible that the extraordinary growth of American power may incite Americans to extend their influence over countries that are strategically important either for geographical position or raw materials?" (p. 92). Troeder answers this question i n the affirmative. With regard to America's response to Russia's peace offensive, see Kolko, Limits of Power, Chapter 25. American pressures on Europe took the form of threats to withdraw Ameri-can troops from Europe and to rely on massive nuclear retaliation of any Russian attack i n the area i f the European Defense Community was not accepted. This plan appealed to the Rupublican Congress, who saw the use of nuclear weapons as the cheapest, most effective way to deal with communists (LaFeber, Cold War, p. 170). ^Piovene, "Ungrateful Europe," p. 124. 7 5 B a r r , "Gli Stati U n i t i , " p. 66. 76 "Many recognized i n (de Kooning) tendencies that transcended any nation-a l barriers and found analogies between his work and those of ar t i s t s else-where i n the world who are attempting to grapple with similar problems" (MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 9). 77 H. Lester Cooke, transcript of report on Ben Shahn's exhibition at the 1954 Venice Biennale to MOMA (no t i t l e ) , i n Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D148. 41 CHAPTER TWO My credo i s that the a r t i s t , i n the very business of keeping his integrity, begins to supply some of the moral stamina our country needs. Ben Shahn, Paragraphs on Art, 1952 The Artist and the Pol i t i c i a n In order to understand why Shahn was sent to Venice and why he was so successful, i t i s necessary to look at the promotional literature for and the press reaction to his exhibition. The major pieces of promotional literature produced for the 1954 Biennale by the Museum of Modern Art were i t s own special catalogue and the ar t i c l e by Alfred Barr, J r . on the American exhi-bition for the Biennale publication La Biennale. As indicated i n the Intro-duction, Ben Shahn*s a r t i c l e "The Artis t and the Po l i t i c i a n , " which appeared i n translation i n the November-December 1953 issue of Sele Arte, w i l l also be considered.^ The following sections w i l l examine, however, not only the ideological surface of these writings, but also the underlying p o l i t i c a l r e a l i t i e s to which they refer. Lawrence Alloway, i n his book on the Venice Biennale, records how as much as a year prior to the actual Biennale, galleries would arrange special shows throughout Europe of any of their artists included i n the upcoming exhibition at Venice, and write articles on them for various European maga-zines. This was done i n order to create publicity and exposure for these 2 a r t i s t s , usually with an eye to the major prizes awarded at the Biennale. Shahn's a r t i c l e d i f f e r s , though, from the average run of publicity writing i n that i t records his p o l i t i c a l sentiments rather than his a r t i s t i c views or achievements. This emphasis on p o l i t i c s permeates a l l of the promotional 42 literature on Shahn, and i t w i l l be useful, therefore, to f i r s t examine 3 Shahn*s particular p o l i t i c a l stance as expressed i n the Sele Arte a r t i c l e . "The Artist and the P o l i t i c i a n " was originally presented by Shahn at a conference of the Emergency C i v i l Liberties Committee i n January 1953, a conference organized to protest the actions of McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and was subsequently printed i n the May 1953 issue of the Committee*s publication Rights. 4 It then appeared i n the 5 September 1953 issue of Art News, the S November 1953 issue of the Colorado Springs Free Press, and, f i n a l l y , the November-December 1953 issue of Sele Arte. • In this a r t i c l e Shahn condemned the increasing right-wing attacks on modern art as communistic^ and expressed his concern regarding the effect that such attacks might have on America's image abroad: Aside from the incalculable damage that such investigation and suppression do to our own culture, we might consider some of their international implications. It i s conceded, even by generals, that however great may be our military prowess, our ultimate victory or defeat i n the struggle with Communism w i l l be a victory or defeat of ideas. Our idea i s Democracy. And I believe that i t i s the most appeal-ing idea that the world has yet known. But i f we, by o f f i c i a l acts of suppression, play the hypocrite toward our own beliefs, strangle our own l i b e r t i e s , then we can hardly hope to win the world*s un-qualified confidence.7 Right-wing attacks on modern art i n America served, therefore, to weaken the forces of democracy in their fight against communism. In his criticism of both extremes of the p o l i t i c a l spectrum, Shahn revealed his strong support for the liberalism of the American government: The l i b e r a l of today—the a l t r u i s t — t h e humanitarian—any c i t i -zen who feels his responsibility toward the public good—finds himself caught between two malignant forces. To the right of him stands the force of reaction, that has always opposed reform or progress . . . . To the l e f t of the l i b e r a l stands the Communist contingent, ever alert to move i n upon his good works, always ready to supply him with i t s l i t t l e packages of shopworn dogma, to misappropriate his words, his acts and intentions . . . . Q Together, these two forces have constituted an unholy team. 4? In the reactionary atmosphere that had contributed to the defeat of Be Gasperi and that was being reinforced by the attempts of his successor, Guiseppe Pella, to appease the Right, the sentiments expressed i n Shahn's arti c l e would have had particular relevance. Many Italians were relying on America's help i n combatting r i s i n g neo-fascism i n their own country, and the appearance, therefore, of a similar reactionary climate i n America was ob-viously distressing. In the commentary that accompanied Shahn's a r t i c l e by the editor of Sele Arte Carlo Ragghianti, the following statement i s found: The ar t i c l e attacks one point that involves us directly. Ameri-ca as an ideal and a potential of liberty i s too important for the whole world, as well as for culture, for us to remain indifferent to the grave complications that Ben Shahn points out and which con-firm so much other information that we constantly read i n American newspapers and magazines . . . . (The) work of the free American a r t i s t found among us a deep and anxious echo and represented an opportune and f r u i t f u l admonition.9 Shahn eased Italian anxiety by publicly condemning McCarthyism and thus showing that this movement had yet to s t i f l e free speech i n America. What Ragghianti found most consoling about Shahn*s art i c l e was not i t s content,though, but the fact that i t was published by Art News, "one of the greatest, most accepted and diffused American magazines," rather than by a "small club maga-10 zine." The wide circulation this magazine enjoyed would allow the American public, and by implication the Italian public through Sele Arte, to "find again and defend the traditional positions of liberty, which are at the base 11 of the "ideal of America."" While the reputation Ragghianti claimed for Art News was obviously exaggerated, this magazines status as an art journal rather than a p o l i t i c a l pamphlet such as Rights was important, for i t meant that the information contained between i t s covers maintained an aura of non-partisan, a r t i s t i c 'truth* rather than of p o l i t i c a l propaganda. Ragghianti's subsequent demand for Italian "intervention" should America deviate from i t s traditional positions was a ghostly echo of a similar demand by Hughes that 44 12 same year for American intervention i n Italy should De Gasperi be defeated. Ragghianti applied Shahn*s accusation that, i n America, "people of the 13 basest ignorance are s i t t i n g i n judgement upon art" ^  to a similar situation i n Italy i n December 1952. It was during this month that right-wing members of the Italian Senate c r i t i c i z e d the public administration and national gallery at the XXVI Venice Biennale for assigning prizes to and purchasing certain contemporary works of art. They.described these works as "grotesque objects that could not possibly, i n any way, be considered expressions of art, and that were contrary to every aesthetic sense and that were loathsome, and 14 derisive to the sound and balanced aesthetic taste of the Italian people." The works attacked included both the modern painting and sculpture of Mario Radice and Alberto Viani and the social r e a l i s t canvases of Carlo Levi and Renato Guttuso. In Italy, as i n America, then, right-wing politicians were attempting to repress modern and social r e a l i s t art i n favour of more t r a d i -tional contemporary art forms. Shahn*s labelling of such attempts as "tragic buffoonery" placed him among the defenders of modern art, an art that repre-sented a v i t a l part of progressive, l i b e r a l culture and that he had earlier 15 described as "one of the few remaining outposts of free speech." Shahn ends his a r t i c l e with the admonition that the time i s here—perhaps i t ' s past due—for a reassertion of Democracy, a reawakening of freedom . . . . To take such a stand i s not just a matter of self-interest. It transcends that; i t ' s a matter of much needed, and much wanting, patriotism.''" If those Italians who read this a r t i c l e were unable to connect Shahn*s mes-sages with the p o l i t i c a l situation i n their own country, or to equate the concerns of the present American administration with those of the l i b e r a l elements i n the Italian government, then Ragghianti's commentary helped them make such connections. And Shahn's c a l l for action could thus be taken as a c a l l to Italians to r a l l y their support behind a more l i b e r a l Christian Democrat leader, as represented by Pella's successor i n February 1954» Antonio Scelba. 4 5 I hate injustice. I guess that's about the only thing I really do hate. Ben Shahn, Interview i n Magazine of Art. 1 9 4 4 Italy, Oppression.and the Free Individual The essay on Shahn that appeared i n both the o f f i c i a l Biennale cata-logue and the smaller one published by MOMA, was written by James Thrall Soby, a close friend of Shahn*s who had been associated with the Museum for 17 over twenty years* In this essay Soby emphasized three major themes: Shahn's admiration for Italy; his concern for the oppressed, particularly the 18 labouring classes; and his "paradoxical" public-private nature. Shahn's proclaimed love for Italy held obvious advantages i n a campaign centered on winning the good w i l l of the Italian people. In a letter to Shahn written on 1 7 March 1 9 5 4 i n which Soby discusses the Biennale essay, he refers to the significance of this love: "I won't make a big point of this, of course, but a few statements might help the Italians to understand that even 19 though we-were o f f i c i a l l y enemies, we grieved for them nevertheless." , Soby's devotion of almost half of his piece to Shahn's feelings for Italy would seem to suggest that a 'big point' was, i n fact, being made. Soby related at length an incident from Shahn's past i n which an I t a l -ian barber explains to the young Shahn why the peasants returned to their homes beneath the still-smoking Mount Etna: "When you have planted so much in one place, you have to go back to i t . " Besides admiring this perseverence i n the face of disaster, Shahn i s described as being fascinated as well by Italy's superb visual heritage, and the dignity and grace of the people. "Like most a r t i s t s , " Shahn i s quoted as saying, "I look upon Italy as 'the home place'." His grief over the disasters of war i n Italy resulted i n a number of paintings "in which Italian children, unquenchably imaginative, 46 explore the new ruins of ancient buildings." One of these paintings, Liber- ation, was present at the Biennale. Soby presented the reader, therefore, with a picture of a persevering, imaginative, homeloving Italian people passively accepting the successive destructions and reconstructions of their country, and he presented America, through Shahn, as a caring and sympathetic nation. It was a picture of Italy that promoted the ine v i t a b i l i t y of history, the i n a b i l i t y of the Italian people to alter the pattern of poverty and oppression which imposed i t s e l f so regularly upon their l i v e s . This picture's existence depended upon a refusal both to acknowledge the causes of this poverty and oppression, and to accept the active, revolutionary alternative offered the Italian people by the Communist Party, an alternative the American government also refused to accept. Hughes, in his book on Italy and American foreign policy, provided us with a surprisingly similar description of Italy; In the devastation i n f l i c t e d by the war, Italy suffered more heavily than any Western nation except Germany . . . . Yet even i n the midst of homelessness, undernourishment, and anxiety about the future, the Italians enjoyed certain advantages over their neighbors. The fact that they had always been poor, that they had known hardship as their normal l o t , gave them a special kind of experience and fortitude to face the deepened misery of wartime . . . . The Italians, as we have seen, did not simply look at their ruined houses i n helpless despair: they went to work to;rebuild them with their own hands.^ This "fortitude**'would, according to Hughes, improve the lot of the Italian people only i f i t was applied to a systematic reconstruction of the Italian nation under the leadership of the Christian Democrats and on the basis of the economic principles of American capitalism. The suggestion that American artists looked on Italy as the "home place" was also misleading. Italy, for most modern American artists at that time and particularly for non-objective a r t i s t s , represented the home of a per-spective and naturalism that no longer held any meaning, and that therefore 47 had to be abandoned. Abstract expressionism attempted to destroy the continu-i t y of history by rejecting the a r t i s t i c achievements of the past and em-21 barking on a seemingly revolutionary path. In different circumstances this rejection of the past, a past which included both modern French and t r a d i -tional Italian art, had represented: a positive aspect of the American image, proof of this country's independent and progressive nature. But at the 1954 Biennale one of the main concerns was with reassuring the Italian people of their importance to America. Pointing out de Kooning's similarity to 22 Boccioni and Shahn's admiration for Italian art, an admiration evident i n his obvious references to fourteenth and fifteenth century Italian painters 23 in certain of his works, helped serve this purpose. Shahn's concern for the oppressed and the working classes was presented by Soby as the result of his own upbringing i n "the poorer sections of Brook-lyn" where he was forced to make sidewalk sketches by "local toughs." A rejection of art-for-arts-sake and an acceptance of "narrative commentary on the l i f e and social issues of his time" resulted i n two series of p i c t u r e s — the f i r s t on the case of the Italian-American Sacco and Vanzetti, and the second on the t r i a l of the labour leader Tom Mooney. These series touched on two very important issues i n Italy—the American government's attitude to-wards Italian immigrants, and the position of labour as the stronghold of the Italian Communist Party. In the f i r s t two decades of the twentieth century, Italians were allowed into America with few restrictions. The decade from 1901 to 1911 alone saw the influx of over a million and a half Italian immigrants. By 1920, however, growing isolationist sentiments had changed American attitudes toward immigra-tion. The subsequent quota acts of 1921 and 1924 cut off v i r t u a l l y a l l new 24 immigration to the States. A series of bombings in April and June of 1919, 48 along with the Russian Revolution of that same year, had also triggered a 25 wave of anti-communism similar to that of the early 1950s. Sacco and Vanzetti were two of many p o l i t i c a l dissidents to f a l l prey to this growing "red-scare" mentality. Being labour agitators and anar-chists, as well as having fled to Mexico in 1917 to avoid the draft, they were kept under close supervision upon their return to the States by Attor-ney-General A. Mitchell Palmer. Palmer's notorious raids resulted i n the rounding up of many labour unionists and real or imagined radicals, who were "frequently beaten, often summarily deported i f they were foreign born, or 26 held for months without t r i a l s or hearings." In addition to these raidsv a general fear and mistrust of immigrants, particularly economically success-f u l ones, was prevelant i n the predominantly White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant states of New England where Sacco and Vanzetti lived. The widespread pro-tests i n the U.S. and abroad over the execution of these two Italian immi-grants i n 1927 were based on the conviction that Sacco and Vanzetti had been found guilty by virtue of their p o l i t i c a l beliefs and nationality rather than 27 because of any evidence proving them guilty of robbery or murder. The bad feeling that resulted from the persecutions of Italian Americans and the termination of Italian immigration i n the 1920s was s t i l l present i n Italy i n the 1950s. In 1953 Vittorio Zincone, editor of Giornale dell'Emilia of Bologna and an active member of the Liberal Party, commented on "the disappointment of the popular classes with the America that went back on i t s 28 assumed promise of redistributing the wealth through migration." The U.S. immigration quota for Italians i n 1953 was actually lower than that of 1924, additional technical requirements making i t even more d i f f i c u l t for prospec-29 tive immigrants to enter the country. ' The p o l i t i c a l importance of labour i n Italy i n 1953 i s indicated by 49 Hughes* statement that "labor remains the core of Communist electoral and organizational strength. It accounts for a substantial share of the two and a half million members that make the Italian party the largest i n the non-30 Communist world." The purge of communists from American labour unions i n 31 the late 1940s, and a similar American-backed attempt by De Gasperi, added to the antipathy the Italian working class, already f e l t toward the United States because of U.S. immigration policies, and increased the support of this class for the Italian Communist Party. Soby presented Shahn as a c r i t i c of American actions i n the 1 9 2 0 s toward Italian immigrants and as a supporter of the causes of labour i n Italy and i n America, with one major exception: "(Shahn's) sympathies always have been with the oppressed, though he has vigorously repudiated the cure for their ills^proposed by Communism." The United States wanted to win as much of the support of the Italian labouring classes as possible, and one way of doing so was to present an American a r t i s t who came from the same back-ground of oppression; who fought for the rights of Italian-American labour leaders; who condemned the cures to their problems offered by communism; and who created an easily-understandable narrative art concerned not only with aesthetic problems, but with "various causes i n which he has believed." He was, i n other words, an art i s t who was fighting an ideological battle on Communism's own terms. The f i n a l major theme i n Soby's essay dealt with what he considered a "paradox" i n Shahn's career, that while Shahn was engaged i n public-social activity, he was s t i l l able to remain "one of the most private and individual of American easel painters." What Soby was emphasizing here was the d i f f e r -ence between Shahn and communist social r e a l i s t s . Shahn was free to be a private individual and at the same time to c r i t i c i z e the actions of his 5 0 government without being censured. Proof that his criticisms did not result i n censure was the fact that his paintings were "bought avidly for American collections, public and private, from one coast to the other." Soby closed on a confident note: "The respect we i n this country feel for (Shahn) has already begun to extend abroad. It i s our hope that i t w i l l now be shared i n Italy." What Soby was hopeful of was a shared respect not only for Shahn as an a r t i s t , but also for the American values that he represented. The quote by Shahn that followed Soby's entry was taken from a lecture 32 given at Harvard i n April 1 9 5 1 . In the f i r s t of the two paragraphs, Shahn lionized the American cult of the individual: So much that we l i v e with and experience today has become devoid of personality. Objects that we handle and use are mass produced, our clothing, mass designed . . . . But art i s s t i l l the citadel of the individual. It i s one of the few remaining outposts of free speech-unprocessed speech. The personal touch of the artist's hand remains ineradicably upon his canvases. Whatever he says or feels i s com-municated directly and without modification to those who look at his work. The phrases 'devoid of personality','mass produced', and 'mass designed*, conjure up the familiar stereotypical image of communist society as pre-sented by American propaganda. While Shahn's "we*! implied that such a s i t u -ation existed i n America as well, i t existed as an unfortunate, unwanted e v i l in American democracy, an e v i l that would be defeated by that last citadel of the in d i v i d u a l — a r t . The overall implications of this view are complicated and seemingly contradictory considering Shahn*s involvement i n the production of commercial art. This last citadel of the individual was, according to Shahn, an art that was above the objects produced for and bought by the •masses', a suspiciously e l i t i s t sentiment coming from such a socially-conscious a r t i s t . But Shahn viewed commercial art not as an art that appealed to the lowest common denominator i n i t s vast audience, but as one that, i n maintaining the higher standards of fine art, would be educative and a "source 51 of increasing pleasure and value to the p u b l i c . n " And yet even though Shahn believed in the value of high quality commercial art, he also s t i l l believed that fine art was superior to commercial art because i t was able to be both controversial and philosophical, which "practical" commercial art could never be. Fine art was, for Shahn, "the securest haven of free speech l e f t to u s . " ^ He f a i l e d , or refused, to acknowledge the fact that this haven was also subject to the practical considerations of American p o l i t i c s . By insisting on the importance of the individual, Shahn found favour with those who were losing their sense of individuality, whether because of communist authoritarianism or capitalist mass-production. He appealed to their intelligence by avoiding both the blatant propaganda of standard adver-t i s i n g art and orthodox social realism, and the incomprehensibility of non-objective art, producing instead finely-crafted, "poetically" r e a l i s t i c paintings and drawings. In so doing he situated himself i n the center of these two extremes, allowing enough social realism i n his work to create a vague sense of moral indignation and enough modernism to keep this indigna-tion anchored firmly i n the world of art. Shahn shared many of the most basic values held by the l i b e r a l ruling e l i t e and f e l t that his art could help to r e c t i f y the i l l s that were marring an otherwise admirable p o l i t i c a l system. He did not agree with Robert Motherwell, who believed that only through the "rejection, almost 'in toto*, of the values of the bourgeois world," which meant the rejection of figura-35 tive content, could art remain relevant i n twentieth-century America. This acceptance by Shahn of the bourgeois values of America's leaders, and of their accompanying ideology, suggests a similar acceptance of the associations attached to his art. But such an acceptance on the part of an a r t i s t was not necessary for his or her art to be incorporated into this ideology. Even 52 those abstract expressionists who rejected the bourgeois world and who f e l t , like Mark Rothko, that "the familiar identity of things has to be pulverized i n order to destroy the f i n i t e associations with which our society increas-ingly enshrouds every aspect of our environment," found their art i n the 36 forefront of the battle between democracy and communism. Shahn's p o l i t i c a l and moral allegiances were, in fact, confusing and at times seemingly contradictory, but no more so than the workings of the l i b e r a l ideology he represented. And i f the people who viewed his work at the 1954 Biennale were aware of the contradictions within either the a r t i s t or the ideology, the significance of these contradictions was lost in the overwhelming acceptance of the paintings themselves. An example of the pervasiveness of this l i b e r a l ideology i s found i n the last four sentences of the paragraph quoted above. For here we find Shahn using the same language of freedom and individualism as the leading abstract expressionists—citadel of the individual, free speech, unprocessed speech, personal touch of the artist's hand, communicated directly and without modification. Only i n this instance, these expressions are used to describe qualities found, in Shahn's opinion, only i n r e a l i s t i c , socially relevant art. The expressions themselves have a totall y different meaning than when used by 37 abstract expressionists. Free, unprocessed speech was, for Shahn, speech unaffected by the attacks of both the Right and the Left.. The personal touch of the ar t i s t meant a v i s i b l e , recognizable craftmanship, evidence of the rational, moral nature,of the a r t i s t . Direct, unmodified communication was the result of an art that needed no lengthy explanation by an art expert or c r i t i c to be understood. Two of these qualities were, according to Shahn, absent from non-objective a r t i personal touch and direct communication. The f i r s t sentences of the second paragraph of Shahn's quote i n MOMA's 53 catalogue continued this criticism of non-objective art: But I think that artists ought to recognize this, that there i s no moral reason why art ought to go on i f i t has nothing further to express . . . . Art i s important only i f i t essays to be im-portant . . . . Society needs more than anything else to be reminded that man i s , i n himself, ultimate value. For Shahn, abstract expressionism's biggest sin was i t s lack of visible moral commitment, i t s concern not with man as "ultimate value" but with the physi-cal properties of painting i t s e l f . In a collection of quotes published by Shahn i n 1952 entitled Paragraphs on Art he commented: Non-objectivism i s about the most non-committal statement that can be made i n art. It rests i t s f a i t h i n the machinery with which a painting i s put together—materials plus organization. Its basic precept i s that art i s simply experience, an experience that l i e s solely within the physical properties of the painting. Abstract and non-objective art deny the v a l i d i t y of any moral intention i n a r t . ^ 8 Shahn appears to be i n general agreement here with the condemnation of non-objective art by both Russian and Italian communists. By agreeing with this aspect of communist dogma—the belief i n the need for socially-relevant content i n a r t — and at the same time supporting the vaunted human-ism and individualism of American democracy, he was able to produce an image of this democracy that would appeal to a socially-conscious Italian public. The end of Shahn's quote carries a reminder to society that neither the pressure of events nor the exigencies of diplomacy can warrant the f i n a l debasement of man . . . . Art, because i t i s the innate expression of man, speaks also i n f i n a l values, tends to reaffirm the individual. Art i s neither use, nor appointed task; but given human compulsion, some intellectual stature and great com-petence, i t can perhaps bring man back into focus as being of supreme importance. Phrases such as 'the pressure of events' and ithe exigencies of diplomacy' would have carried certain connotations for Italians i n the summer of 1954* In the past few years two developments had threatened the debasement of man: the attempts of right-wing politicians i n both Italy and America to repress cultural freedoms; and the increasing American economic and military pressures 54 on Europe, particularly with regard to the European Defense Community.40 Shahn*s reassurances that art would reaffirm the individual and bring man back into focus as being of supreme importance could have been interpreted as meaning that the American government would also concern i t s e l f with such tasks, given Shahn*s position as representative of America and the use of 41 similar phrases to describe American democracy. His insistence that art was neither "use" nor "appointed task" could also have been interpreted as a condemnation of communism and communist social realism i n favour of a modern American art and government that embodied such qualities as "human compulsion, some intellectual stature and great competence." . . . a l l great beliefs have i n common with religion the s p i r i -tual quality that makes for good art. Ben Shahn, Portrait of the A r t i s t , 1951 A Modern-Day Crucifixion In addition to the essays i n the Biennale and MOMA catalogues and Shahn*s ar t i c l e i n Sele Arte, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., MOMA's Director of Museum Collections, was invited to produce an article on the U.S. exhibition for La Biennale. 4 2 In i t he reiterated many of the themes that appeared i n the writings of both Soby and Shahn. Barr began his ar t i c l e by commenting on the private ownership of the American pavilion and the fact that such ownership ensured the existence of a "progressive s p i r i t free from censure." This was i n opposition to the govern-ment-owned pavilions which were open to interference from government o f f i c i a l s who were often subjected to "pressures of a philistine nature." He gives as an example the instance of American legislators undergoing "insistent warnings from concerned academic artists regarding the correctness or even the p a t r i -43 otism of their modern r i v a l s . " Amid these philistine pressures and censures, 5 5 Shahn appeared as an a r t i s t with a "profound, passionate interest for the human condition," 4 4 The f i r s t example offered by Barr of this concern was Shahn's Sacco and Vanzetti series of paintings, represented at the 1 9 5 4 Biennale by Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco (Figure 2). But rather than emphasizing the fact that the victims were Italian immigrants or labour leaders, Barr took a different tack. He included, instead, the following quote by Shahn concerning this series: Ever since I could remember I'd always wished I'd been lucky enough to be alive when something big was happening, like the Crucifixion. And suddenly I realized I was l i v i n g through another crucifixion. Here was something to paint1^5 Equating Sacco and Vanzetti with Qhfcist would have had obvious advantages i n Italy where the bulk of the population, including many of those voting for the Communist Party, were practising Catholics. 4^ And Shahn's deification of two Italian immigrants whose crucifixions had been largely the responsibility of the American government, would also have had a certain Magdelene-like appeal to Italians, regardless of their individual p o l i t i c a l allegiances. 4 7 While Barr f a i l e d to connect Shahn with labour via Sacco and Vanzetti, he did make the connection i n the following paragraph: His murals, like those i n the main Bronx post office i n New York,, and i n the Federal Security Building i n Washington, have as their subject matter work or social well-being. His posters for the Office of War Information and for the CIO (the large labor union) and some ,ft of his larger paintings deal with social and p o l i t i c a l subject matter. In a country of high unemployment, a low standard of l i v i n g , and high p o l i t i -cal consciousness, an a r t i s t concerned with work or social well-being would 49 have had particularly strong appeal. But after connecting Shahn with these issues Barr, like Soby and lik e Shahn himself, added an important qualifier: "But Shahn i s not a social r e a l i s t i n a communist sense." The quote he then included by Shahn condemned "the formulae of commissars," the "exaggerated generals and extremely idealized proletariat," and the "lack of conviction" 56 Figure 2 . Ben Shahn, Bartolomeo Vanzetti and N i c o l a Sacco, 1931-2 Museum of Modern A r t , New York G i f t of Mrs. J.D. Rockefeller, J r . (James T. Soby. Ben Shahn. WestDrayton, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1947 . Plate 3 ) 57 evident i n Soviet art. It was an art i n which, according to Shahn, "the 50 search for truth has for the time been arrested."-^ This search for truth could only be carried out i n a democratic society patterned after that of America. Barr, seemingly anticipating the criticism that McCarthyism had greatly hampered the search for truth of any kind i n America, acknowledged the fact that Shahn's searchings had indeed brought him "on occasion into conflict with orthodox conservatives i n the United States as well as with; orthodox radicals." Shahn was therefore placed, again, i n the ' v i t a l center*, a center that was the best and most American place to occupy. Proof of the favourable nature of this position was the outstanding success Shahn enjoyed throughout America: He has received five government commissions for murals, sixty of his works are found i n 30 American museums, and many others are included i n wealthy private collections. He designs covers for American businessmen's periodicals and participates i n conferences i n American universities. The prestige of Shahn i s very great, both as an ar t i s t and as a champion of freedom without compromises.51 Exactly what Barr meant by freedom without compromises i s d i f f i c u l t to deter-mine. Perhaps i t referred to that element i n American ideology that Shahn so aptly represented—freedom of speech, the freedom to c r i t i c i z e without being censured. But, as mentioned earlier, while Shahn may have c r i t i c i z e d certain faults within the American democratic system, he never c r i t i c i z e d or doubted the basic capitalist tenets upon which this system was based. The three pieces of writing discussed above contributed to the creation of a very specific image of Ben Shahn. He was presented, above a l l , as both the defender of the l i b e r a l ideals of the American (and Christian Democrat) government and, at the same time, the watchdog who prevented any deviations from these ideals. He was meant to appeal to the Italian people, specifically, 58 through his concern for the oppressed, his sympathy for the causes of organ-ized labour, and his support of a r e a l i s t i c , socially-relevant art that ri v a l l e d communist social realism yet remained decidedly "democratic" and American. It i s time now to examine the Italian reaction to the exhibition of Shahn's works and the promotional literature attached to this exhibition, to discover whether, i n fact, he was seen this way. It was Ben Shahn who was the overwhelming favorite of the United States representation and indeed proved one of the chief attractions of the Biennale. Museum of Modern Art, "Press Reaction", 1956 An Overwhelming Success The Museum of Modern Art's International Program Report on the American exhibition at the 1954 Venice Biennale, which appeared i n October 1956, i n -cluded the following brief summary of the general European reaction: The response of the c r i t i c s , the press and the public to the exhibition was enthusiastic. Ben Shahn, especially, proved to be a chief focus of interest at the Biennale. He was awarded the ;top purchase prize, offered by the Museu de Arte Moderna of Sao Paulo, 1 B r a z i l . In addition to the numerous illustrations of his work which appeared in,newspapers and periodicals . • ., his drawing Clarinets was selected for reproduction on the cover of the program for the 17th International Festival of Contemporary Music, one of the o f f i -c i a l events of the Biennale . . . . The Ministry of Education at Rome and a number of museums and galleries throughout Europe (the Gemeente Museum of the Hague, the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, the Kunsthaus, Zurich, the Galleria La Bussola, Turin and the Galleria dell'Obelisco, Rome) requested the Museum to arrange a (-„ show of Shahn's work for them following the close of the Biennale. Another request for Shahn's work was made by the Italian Minister of Fine Arts, who wished to explore the pos s i b i l i t y of a one-man show of Shahn's work spon-sored by the Italian government. This was, according to the Director of the American pavilion H. Lester Cooke, an "impressive compliment" considering "the only other l i v i n g non-Italian artists who have been honoured by the Government 53 this way are Picasso, Matisse and Rouault." 59 The summary of European press reaction referred to earlier in the d i s -cussion of de Kooning's work accompanied the above report. It appears, according to the information contained within this summary, that Shahn more than met the expectations of MOMA's organizers, and that the response to his work reflected the concerns dealt with i n the Museum's promotional literature: In contrast to the prevailing currents of surrealism and abstraction which dominated most of the exhibitions at the XXVII Biennale, Shahn's personal version of realism and his recognizable content appeared unique and refreshingly unhackneyed. Moreover, his understanding of poverty and tragedy and his sympathy with the oppressed struck an immediate responsive chord with the Europeans because of their own war and post-war experience. To the Italians, especially, Shahn's use of Italian subject matter made his work even more sympathetic, and he appeared to them as an understanding friend.54 Shahn's appeal, therefore, lay i n his recognizable content, understanding of poverty and tragedy, sympathy with the oppressed, and Italian subject matter. These qualities made him appear an understanding friend of those Italians who, themselves, were poor and oppressed, who were either tired of or confused by both abstract art and orthodox social realism, and who found i n Shahn's work a palatable alternative to both these art forms. Analogously, the American government hoped that the l i b e r a l democracy i t offered as an alternative to the two p o l i t i c a l extremes of neo-fascism and communism would prove just as palatable. The connection between Shahn as an a r t i s t , and Shahn as an o f f i c i a l representative of America was also, according to MOMA, successfully made: One of the most striking and possibly surprising aspects of Shahn's appeal was the fascination that he exerted as a d i s t i n c t l y "American" painter of "American" subjects. In spite of his Euro-pean birth and his kinship with certain European painters, Shahn was regarded as entirely representative of the United States i n his psychology, subject matter and p i c t o r i a l means.55 His p o l i t i c s , too, could be added to this l i s t which, along with his psy-chology, subject matter, and p i c t o r i a l means, were not representative of a l l of Americar-which included reactionaries such as McCarthy—but only of that 60 part represented by the liberalism of the present administration. This appeal as a distinctively American painter was noted by Lisa L i c i t r a Ponti i n her short article on Shahn for the art magazine Domas. She found, particularly i n the paintings Summertime (Figure 3) and Spring (Figure 4) , a "lightly s a t i r i c a l observation of the 'real' i n American customs that 56 i s truly wonderful." Franco Catania provided a more detailed observation i n the Corriere de S i c i l i a ; This Lithuanian-born Jew paints precisely the myth of America—the America of Washington, of Ford, of gangsters; of the America that grew so rapidly out of the courage, the simplicity and the struggles of the early pioneers . . . . The painting of Ben Shahn i s one of the most sincere, alive and original documents in contemporary Ameri-can art. 5 7 Catania's combination of the notions of myth and sincere documentation i s somewhat puzzling. How could Shahn paint both at the same time? vThis myth of Washington, Ford, gangsters,and pioneers does not, i n fact, seem to have appeared i n any of Shahn's paintings or drawings included i n the Biennale exhibition. But i n the themes that did appear i n these works—labour, war, and oppression—Shahn actually did present the duality suggested by Catania. The documentation was present i n the ruins of Liberation (Figure 15 ) and i n the dazed expression and clenched hands of the woman i n Miners' Wives (Figure 5) ; the myth emerged in the suggestion, inherent i n the ideology that these paintings represented, that the conditions of poverty, war, and oppression were a l l part of an unalterable hi s t o r i c a l progression rather than of an alterable class c o n f l i c t . Catania saw Washington, Ford, and gangsters in Shahn's paintings because he was looking for them, just as Ponti interpreted a young couple lying on the grass and a man eating watermelon as "the 'real* i n American customs'* and as the French c r i t i c Jouffroy found in Shahn*s works not light s a t i r i c a l obser-59 vation, but "sharp social criticism." Shahn's paintings were effective as 61 Figure 3« Ben Shahn, Summertime, 1949 Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. (Bernarda Bryson Shahn. Ben Shahn. New York: H.N. Abrams Inc., 1972. Page 101) 62 *0 Figure 4. Ben Shahn, Spring, 1946 Room of Contemporary Art Collection, Albright Knox Gallery (James T, Soby. Ben Shahnt Paintings. New York: George Braziller, 1963. Plate 29) Figure 5. Ben Shahn, Miners' Wives, 1948 Philadelphia Museum of Art Gift of Wright S. Ludington (Bryson Shahn, Ben Shahn. Page 177) 64 cultural propaganda, therefore, not only because they contained specific Italian and humanitarian subject matter, but also because they permitted such a wide range of interpretation. More w i l l be said about this aspect of Shahn's work later. Catania's myth of America, of Washington, Ford, and gangsters, was par-t i c u l a r l y strong i n Italy at this time. In a way i t did remain both myth and rea l i t y , for few were able to travel to America to discern the difference. Few were also willing, even when confronted with conflicting evidence, to give up this dream of a land of wealth and opportunity so different from their own. This myth was transmitted largely through the media of popular culture, such as Hollywood movies, American popular magazines, and American advertising art. While respect for the American way of l i f e was the ideological rationale behind cultural, p o l i t i c a l , and economic excursions abroad by both government and private institutions, a respect based on this particular area of American culture proved disturbing to some: It may be f l a t t e r i n g to discover the prestige that things American enjoy i n Italy. But i t i s less reassuring to observe how often i t i s the undistinguished products of the United States which have been exported i n greatest quantity and to which the Italians have taken with most alacrity. Toward the more vulgar and spectacular aspects of America, the average Italian betrays a disconcerting lack of re-sentment. In Rome one finds l i t t l e of the dignified Parisian r e s i s -tance to the advance of American popular culture: the Hollywood films and the neon lights continue their conquests unchecked.^0 The source of some of Hughes' concern may have been the belief that the graphic displays of crime and p o l i t i c a l corruption i n American movies and magazines would provide ammunition for communists i n their attacks on American capitalism as decadent and materialistic. This would have been a valid con-cern i n Italy where the strength of the Communist Party was such that even though many Italians were attracted by the American dream, they s t i l l saw the most workable solutions to their immediate problems i n the offerings of the Italian Communist Party. 65 Catania, i n the above quote, touched on two further aspects of Shahn's background that had added significance i n Italy, and i n Western Europe as a whole—the fact that Shahn was, by birth, Russian and that he was Jewish. Italy's relationship with Russia was a complex one: a close physical neigh-bour; an enemy i n World War II; a friend of America, Russia's enemy i n the Cold War; and the home of a major p o l i t i c a l party a l l i e d to the Russian Com-munist Party. Shahn's Russian birth connected him to Italy as a one-time neighbour; his departure from Russia and wholehearted acceptance of l i f e i n America symbolized the superiority of the one over the other, of American democracy over communism. His Jewish heritage served to strengthen the authority with which he spoke on the evils of oppression and persecution, the fate of millions of Jews i n Europe at the hands of the Nazis s t i l l fresh i n most European minds. In another part of his a r t i c l e , Catania stated that Shahn's works were "born out of a human and poetic experience which can be c l a r i f i e d not inap-propriately by evoking the name of Chaplin."^ Evoking this name i n Europe i n 1954 would have brought to mind a much-publicized incident of the previous year, when Chaplin had refused to return to America after being harassed by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service because of his p o l i t i c a l opinions. ^America i s so terribl y grim," he said, " in spite of a l l that material pros-perity. They no longer know how to weep. Compassion and old neighborliness have gone, people stand by and do nothing when friends and neighbors are 62 attacked, libeled and ruined." Shahn, like Charlie Chaplin, condemned these developments i n America and offered reassurances that such deviations from the tradition of democracy were, i n fact, being dealt with by the present American government. The Army-McCarthy hearings, which ran from 22 April to 17 June 1954 and which were broadcast on national television, helped drive these reassurances home.^ 66 My work i s about people. Mostly the lower one third of the people. I try to show them with humor as well as poignancy: in any form of art i t i s well to have laughter with the tears. Ben Shahn, Newark Sunday C a l l . 14 January 1945 The Dignity and the Reality of the Oppressed Shahn's understanding of and sympathy for the poor and the oppressed were major factorsin his success i n Italy. Catania described Shahn's work as containing "an affectionate attachment for the world of poor people, for the disinherited, for the oppressed, whom he always represented i n an aura of redemption, expressing pained sensibility i n the face of inju s t i c e . " ^ 4 Pilon Ugo, the sixty-year-old Italian guard at the American pavilion and one of the poor about whom Shahn painted, wrote to Shahn: "Your paintings constitute that which i s most loved and most beautiful i n the struggling l i f e of poor 65 populations." Cooke summarized the reaction to Shahn's evident concern for the hardships suffered by the majority of Italians as follows: After the war Italy was l e f t devastated and impoverished, and although she has risen phoenix-like from the ashes, six years of destruction l e f t problems both physical and spir i t u a l which few Americans can understand . . . . Shahn represents this poverty, suffering and dignity, whether i n the brick jungle of Brooklyn or i n the rubble of bombed Italian homes, with a si n -cerity and understanding which every v i s i t o r to the American pavilion can see and understand.^6 Shahn appealed to poor and oppressed Italians, then, not by presenting the dismal r e a l i t y of their poverty, like the Italian communist painters, but by showing in his paintings the "beauty" of their struggling l i f e . "There are other painters here i n Italy," commented a factory worker from Bologna i n talking of Shahn's work, "who like to remind us of our poverty. Carlo Levi and the Communists, for example, but they show us as though we were ox-like actors in.a third-class opera. We know a good painting when we see i t and we 67 know when some one i s sincere." 67 MOMA's press review states that Shahn's sympathy with the poor and oppressed "created a special problem for Communist writers, for although they found his subject matter acceptable to them, his style and nationality 68 were not." His condemnation of the Communist Party also made his acceptance d i f f i c u l t . According to the Museum, the communist newspaper L'Ora of Palermo dealt with the issue by reproducing Liberation along with two social r e a l i s t paintings i n an ar t i c l e discussing the prize-winners and condemning "avant-garde tendencies" at the Biennale. While not mentioning any names, the a r t i c l e also spoke disparagingly of non-Communist "social r e a l i s t " artists i n general . . . , stating that "their social realism i s s t i l l l i k e a seed sown on arid ground, without realism or tradition, and has not yet been translated into formal terms, thus i s 'social* only in the widest and most basic sense of the wordi "°9 For orthodox communists in Italy familiar with the Party line on art, the i l l u s t r a t i o n of Shahn's painting accompanying this a r t i c l e would have been seen as an example of "arid" social realism, even though Shahn himself was not condemned by name. But for those Italians who were not familiar with this line, or who were wi l l i n g to accept communist p o l i t i c s but not communist art, the appearance of Liberation alongside two social r e a l i s t paintings may have proven to be an advantageous 'Comparison for Shahn. Social realism i n Italy i n the early 1 9 5 0 s was not the same as social realism i n Russia. Just as the Italian Communist Party under Tog l i a t t i main-tained a certain independence from the Russian Communist Party so too did 70 Italian communist a r t i s t s . The realism of Renato Guttuso and Carlo Levi was much less exact and naturalistic than that of such Russian artists as S.A. Grigoriev and F. Reshetnikov. And while the paintings of these Italian artis t s remained within the Party dictates of peasants and workers, they pre-sented, on the whole, a much gloomier and more static picture of the l i f e of the lower classes than that described by the Russian social r e a l i s t s . The 68 1953 Annual A l l Soviet Union art show, for example, was dominated by academic, moralistic paintings—The Return, Discussion of a 'D', Fresh Number of the Shop Paper—showing healthy Russian workers acting to improve their lot by 71 encouraging such virtues as faithfulness and intelligence. The works of Levi and Guttuso at the 1954 Biennale, on the other hand, tended to provide simple portraits of the Italian peasants i n a l l their roughness and poverty— The Widow, Three Labourers, and Trachoma (Figure 6) by L e v i — or depressing examples of the decadence of Western habits and art—Guttuso 1s Roman Boogie- Woogie (Figure 7 ) . In 1953 John Berger, a l e f t i s t B r i t i s h art c r i t i c , wrote of Guttuso: Guttuso deals with the very elements (heat, dust, the s o i l ) which the common Italian people work with every day of their lives . . . . The Italian character of Guttuso's paintings does not belong to the Italy of the "cultured" tourist—and this must be allowed for. Rawness comes before mellowness, effort before elegance, labour before a meal—and Guttuso does not disguise such facts.72 While the paintings of these Italian arti s t s may have been less i d e a l i s t i c and more truthful than the Russian canvases, they were also less useful as communist propaganda. For an art that simply reminded the Italian workers of their poverty, without providing clear-cut guidelines for change i n an aesthetically-pleasing manner, carried the possibility of alienating these workers and creating a dissatisfaction that might work against communist aims. Such a dissatisfaction i s found i n the sentiments of the Bolognese factory worker quoted above. The success Levi and Guttuso enjoyed i n Italy indicates that not a l l Italians were offended by the style and content of their paintings. It also suggests that their work may not have been as p o l i t i c a l l y radical asione might suspect, the picture-buying public tending to be composed of conservative businessmen rather than communist workers. Just how acceptable these communist artists actually were to non-communist audiences -isvindicated by an ar t i c l e Figure 6. Carlo Levi, Trachoma, 1953 (Lisa L. Ponti, "Pittura alia Biennale." Domus Settembre 1954. Page 28) 70 Figure 7. Renato Guttuso, Roman Boogie-Woogie, 1953 (Douglas Cooper. "Reflections on the Venice Biennale." Burlington Magazine. October 1954. Page 519. Figure 25) 71 i n the 30 November 1953 issue of Time magazine, which praised Guttuso as "one of Italy's most talented a r t i s t s . " This talent, the ar t i c l e claimed, was the result of his unwillingness to f i t his a r t i s t i c conscience "into the tight jacket of Red discipline." It was an unwillingness which allowed him, i n The Dying Hero, to rise "above the level of f l a t p o l i t i c a l posters with his geometric handling of pillow and sheets, s k i l l f u l l y done i n shades of 73 off-white against a violently contrasting red drapery," , y What was important to the author of this a r t i c l e was not that Guttuso's canvases were f i l l e d with "miners, child laborers, peasants, and decadent r i c h folks sunning at Capri," but that he had broken with Red discipline by rejecting the academic style of Russian social realism. Guttuso was thus co-opted into capitalist ideology as another convert to Western democracy, for i n favouring, i n his own words, a "less r i g i d , more fl e x i b l e " style, he was seen as favouring a p o l i t i c a l system that allowed such f l e x i b i l i t y . 7 4 He gained acceptance with the middle classes i n both American and Italy becauses his presentations of Italian poverty and capitalist decadence had advanced far enough along the s t y l i s t i c continuum of art history to allow them to be categorized as art rather than as propaganda. While L'Ora had dealt indirectly with Shahn's work at the Biennale, the communist weekly II Contemporaneo of Rome carried a front-page a r t i c l e t i t l e d "Shahn i n the Cellar," which was accompanied by a reproduction of Handball (Figure 8) and which c r i t i c i z e d the organizers of the American exhibition for not publicly exhibiting certain of Shahn's posters dealing with the subjects of 75 peace and labour. MOMA, i n i t s press review, explained that "the posters were l i s t e d i n the catalog and were shown on request though not hung, since i t was thought preferable to devote the limited wall space at the pavilion to 76 showing paintings and drawings rather than graphic works." But, according 7 2 Figure 8. Ben Shahn, Handball, 1939 Museum of Modern Art, New York Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Purchase Fund (Soby. Ben Shahn. Penguin Books. Plate 15) 7 3 to the author of the a r t i c l e , Gian Paolo Paoli, another reason for their absence was given to him: "(The curator), with an austere look, told me that those catalogue numbers corresponded to posters not exhibited for "reasons 77 of public order," which however could be shown as requested," The posters were eight i n number: We Demand the National Textile Act, 1 9 3 5 ; This i s Nazi Brutality, 1 9 4 2 (Figure 9 ) ; We French Workers Warn You, 1942 (Figure 1 0 ) ; For F u l l Employment After the War—Register Vote, 1944; Break Reactions Grip—Register Vote, 1946 (Figure 1 1 ) ; We Want Peace—Register  Vote, 1 9 4 6 (Figure 1 2 ) ; For A l l These Rights We've Just Begun to Fight-y-Regis- ter Vote, 1 9 4 6 (Figure 1 3 ) ; and Warning—Inflation Means Depression—Register  Vote, 1 9 4 6 (Figure I 4 ) , A l l but the f i r s t three were produced by Shahn for the P o l i t i c a l Action Committee (PAC) of the Congress of Industrial Organiza-tions (CIO) for their campaigns to mobilize the American labour force behind the Democratic candidates i n the 1 9 4 4 presidential and 1 9 4 6 congressional elections. We Demand the National Textile Act was never actually published as a poster, while Nazi Brutality and French Workers were created while Shahn was 78 working for the Office of War Information (OWl). How these works would constitute a threat to public order i s undertandable in terms of the p a r t i -cular issues i n the forefront of Italian p o l i t i c s at this time—the rise of a reactionary party reminiscent of i t s precursor led by Mussolini and the increase i n the Communist Party's power due to the backing of organized labour, unemployment, inf l a t i o n , and the threat of another war were also sensitive subjects i n Italy i n 1 9 5 4 . Shahn's posters, unlike his paintings, were graphic and to the point. They did not allow feelings of nostalgia or a sense of passive acceptance of one's fate, but advocated action. They dealt i n harsh and convincing terms with p o l i t i c a l r e a l i t i e s . It i s unlikely that rio t s would have broken out i n the American pavilion had the posters been hung. But i t would have been next to impossible for the Italian public to 74 Figure 9 . Ben Shahn, This i s Nazi Brutality. 1942 New Jersey State Museum Gift of The Record, Hackensack, N.J. (Kenneth Prescott, The Complete Graphic Works of Ben  Shahn, New York: Quandrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1 9 7 3 . Page 1 2 3 . Figure 1 4 4 ) 75 Figure 1 0 . Ben Shahn, We French Workers Warn You. 1942 New Jersey State Museum Gift of Circle F (Soby. Ben Shahn. Bra z i l l e r . Plate 27) 7 6 Figure 1 1 . Ben Shahn, Break Reactions Grip—Register Vote, 1 9 4 6 New Jersey State Museum (Prescott, Graphic Works. Page 1 3 1 . Figure 1 5 4 ) 77 Figure 12. Ben Shahn, We Want Peace—Register Vote, 1946 Museum of Modern Art, New York Gift of Mrs. S. Spivak (Soby. Ben Shahn. Braziller. Plate 12) Figure 13. Ben Shahn, For A l l These Rights We've Just Begun  To Fight—Register Vote, 194?? New Jersey State Museum Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Lewis (Prescott. Graphic Works. Page 1 3 1 . Figure 1 5 5 ) 79 r DEPRESSION AGISTER ® VOTE Figure 14. Ben Shahn, Warning—Inflation Means Depression—Register  Vote, 1946 Museum of Modem Art, New York (Soby. Ben Shahn. Penguin. Plate 24) 80 have looked at these works and not been reminded of the growing reactionary-climate, -unemployment, and inflation i n their own country, and, most impor-tantly, to have seen the solution to their problems i n organized labour, which i n Italy meant the Communist Party. Such messages would have been un-acceptable to both the Italian and the American governments. The depictions of coarse, "ox-like" workers i n these posters might also have proven as unacceptable to the Italian factory worker from Bologna as the paintings by Levi and Guttuso. Indeed, certain of Shahn's posters for the steel workers union i n the late 1930s "were rejected by one high union leader because the 79 faces and figures were "too ugly to appeal to workers."" Paoli found that these posters by Shahn constituted an image of America that was dear to most Italians—an anti-fascist America—and that to keep them secluded i n a back room especially after having li s t e d them in the Biennale catalogue was a "grave insult" to both logic and culture. He also suggested that their seclusion was the result of the Museum's fear of en-countering the prohibitions of the American State Department. This suggestion was a valid one considering the fact that a Czech-American organization's order for 40,000 Nazi Brutality posters from the 0WI shortly after they were produced was "cancelled by one of the c i v i l i a n morale "experts" on the grounds 80 that i t s message was too "violent."" Paoli ended his ar t i c l e by pointing- out that this whole incident had cast doubt on the r e l i a b i l i t y of America's "religion of freedom." Why the Museum included these posters i n the f i r s t place, knowing that there would be no room to show them and that the subject matter would be con-troversial, i s uncertain. Perhaps i t wanted to exploit the f u l l range of Shahn's appeal, or perhaps i t was unaware of the f u l l extent of the controversy these posters might arouse u n t i l after their arrival i n Italy. It was easy 81 enough, though, to dismiss them as less important than Shahn's paintings, as mere informatimal as opposed to fine art, and thus remove them from public view. With astonishing unanimity every segment of the press, regardless of p o l i t i c a l orientation (which especially i n Italy frequently colors art criticism) or of the c r i t i c s preference for abstract as against representational art, joined i n encomiums. Museum of Modern Art, "Press Reaction," 1956 A L i t t l e Something For Everyone—Liberation and The Red Stairway As was pointed out i n the previous sections, many different aspects of Shahn and his work were found appealing by the Italian public. While Cooke attributed Shahn's universal popularity, for the most part, to his understan-ding of the poverty and oppression of the Italian people, he also acknowledged the advantages of Shahn*s broad range of appeal: European criticism tends to be divided horizontally by national boundaries and v e r t i c a l l y by. national opinion. Professional opinion i s apt therefore to be stereotyped, and i t can often be said i n advance what a French left-wing writer, for example, w i l l say about a non-objective Italian painter. One reason that Shahn has fared so well at the hands of this c r i t i c a l hierarchy i s be-cause his paintings cannot be docketed into any of the categories of modern art.81 European c r i t i c s could therefore cast about among the numerous references to both past and contemporary art i n Shahn's work for those which suited their own individual p o l i t i c a l or aesthetic tastes. MOMA's press review comments further on this quality i n Shahn*s work: An interesting phenomenon i s that each writer seemed to find a different and highly personal basis for admiration. Some dwelt on the content of Shahn's paintings, others on purely formal aspects of his art; some stressed his lyricism, others his satire.** 2 An understanding of how this phenomenon described by MOMA contributed to Shahn*s success i n Italy can be obtained by examining the implications of v a r i -ous s t y l i s t i c and thematic references i n two examples of his work, Liberation 82 (Figure 15) and The Red Stairway (Figure 16). Before beginning such an un-dertaking, i t should be noted here that Shahn's knowledge of the tradition of art history was extensive. He had studied at the National Academy of Design i n New York and had spent three years i n the latter half of the 1920s studying and painting i n Europe. Shahn's attitude during these years i s described i n Rodman's biography of the a r t i s t : "Shahn wanted to know every-thing there was to be learned from Europe, not only from Breughel and Daumier 83 and Masaecio and Giotto, but from Dufy, Rouault, Picasso—and KLee." ^ The results of this diverse training are evident i n his work. One of the measures of Shahn's popularity i n Italy was the appearance of illustrations of his works i n a l l types of publications, from the l i b e r a l art magazine Domus to the communist weekly II Contemporaneo. According to MOMA, Liberation was the universal favourite, with The Red Stairway a close second, followed by Italian Landscape (Figure 17), Father and OM-ld(Figure 18), Spring, Summertime.^ The popularity of these paintings indicates that although they were painted up to ten years prior to the 1954 Biennale, their images were able to be successfully recycled a decade later. In his report to the Museum, Cooke commented on the success of this recycling: It i s now ten years since the pictures of children i n bombed Italy, which have been acclaimed i n Europe, were painted. The memory of the theme i s s t i l l strong, and whether, like Daumier and Dickens, Shahn w i l l continue to be regarded as a great a r t i s t after the causes which he championed and the tragedy he describes have passed from people's memory i s a question that no one at present can answer. For the moment, however, the Italian public believes that without question he i s the greatest painter the United States has produced. The meaning of the images i n Shahn's paintings had changed to a certain ex-tent along with their physical and temporal context. How Shahn's post-war paintings Liberation and The Red Stairway were able to convince the Italian public i n 1954 of his greatness w i l l now be examined. Figure 15 . Ben Shahn, Liberation, 1945 Private Collection, James T. Soby (Soby. Ben Shahn. Penguin. Plate 29) 84 Figure 16. Ben Shahn, The Red Stairway, 1944 City Art Museum of St. Louis (Soby. Ben Shahn. Penguin, Plate 23) 85 Figure 17 Ben Shahn, Italian Landscape, 1944 Walker Art Center, Santa Barbara (Soby, Ben Shahn. Braziller. Plate 32) 86 Figure 18. Ben Shahn, Father and Child, 1946 Private Collection, James T. Soby (Selden Rodman. Portrait of the Artist as an American. New York: Harper & Bros., 1951. Plate facing page 140) 87 Liberation was painted i n 1 9 4 5 and was one of a series of post-war paintings. Its popularity i n Italy i n 1 9 5 4 can be explained on many levels. The most basic of these i s i t s subject matter—the joy f e l t at the end of World War II and "the-tremendous task of reconstruction, material and human, 87 facing the post-war world," a task which the Italians had met with predic-table dignity and fortitude. Shahn's painting presents not a graphic depic-tion of the real horrors and destruction of war, as did his Nazi Brutality poster, but what appears at f i r s t glance to be a visually appealing, l y r i c a l image of i t s aftermath. The implication i s that l i f e w i l l continue as usual, that the children w i l l resume their play amidlthe rubble of their home and that the home i t s e l f w i l l be rebuilt (with the help of the Marshall Plan). Yet the joy of play and liberation i s disrupted by a disturbing sense that a l l i s not quite right. The central child whirls about with a certain maniacal intensity, while the child on the right appears much too small for comfort or safety. Indeed, their frozen postures, combined with the sweeping diagonal brushstrokes of the agitated blue-gray sky, gives the sense that i t i s the world which i s spinning around the children rather than the children around the pole, that they are caught helplessly i n the center of a mannnade maelstrom. The constrasts between the bright patches of wallpaper and the blackened remnants of the ceiling, the neatly preserved cornice and the pi l e of rubble, add further to the sense of uncertainty and ambiguity i n the painting. The only truly stable element, to which our eye continually returns, i s the bright red pole placed slightly to the l e f t of center. While i t i s tempting to read into the colour and placement of this pole a reference to Shahn's p o l i t i c a l allegiances i n 1 9 4 5 , such an interpretation would, i n this case, be straining the limits of speculation. Shahn's intention i n creating this sense of ambiguity i n his work i s 88 revealed i n a 1944 interview with John D. Morse: But most important i s always to have a play back and forth, back and forth. Between the big and the l i t t l e , the light and the dark, the smiling and the sad, the serious and the comic. I like to have three vanishing points i n one plane, or a half dozen i n three planes. My type of social painting makes people smile. The height of the reaction i s when the emotions of anger, sympathy, and humor a l l work at the same time. That's what I try to do—play one against the other, trying to keep a balance.^8 Shahn aligns himself so closely here with the v i t a l center ideology of Ameri-can l i b e r a l politicians that one could almost imagine he was describing the checks and balances tactics of the American government rather than the formal and psychological characteristics of his own art. Shahn achieved his desired balance i n Liberation and i n so doing pre-sented a combination of anger, sympathy,and humour proper for a post-war painting of Italy. Too much humour or joy would have suggested an insensi-t i v i t y to the actual sufferings of the people, too much anger or sadness an unwanted reminder of the r e a l i t y of these sufferings, many of which were s t i l l present i n 1954. Too much joy could also have suggested the idealism of fascist art and i t s attendant nationalist sentiments, too much anger the dog-matism of communist art and socialist sentiments. In playing off one against the other, Shahn prevented the viewer from being preoccupied by either extreme, and created instead a more general feeling of pathos. In his biography of Shahn, Selden Rodman notes this quality of uncertainty and play back and forth i n the children of Liberation: Do they belong to the past or the future? To war or peace? Is i t a f l i g h t to new l i f e or a dance of death? Are they cripples or angels? A l l of these] p o s s i b i l i t i e s are i n the picture but i t i s i n the nature of Shahn's genius to leave the questions unan-swered. 89 The power of Liberation, therefore, lay i n a tension and a balance within the painting that produced questions but no answers, awe but no action. Pilon Ugo, the Italian guard, described the awe produced by Shahn's 89 paintings as verging on a religious experience: Your Paintings hanging from the walls of these halls are admired by everyone are lik e an invitation to a prayer and the Visitors are the best proof of i t ; they come by themselves, i n groups, and on their tiptoes they come close to them, they observe them with attention, they contemplate them i n the most dead silence, collected almost as mute as at a Pilgrimage; i t i s stupendous, i t i s marvelous a l l of this, and I for 10 hours a day without interruption I admire and my soul gets f i l l e d with this very large compassion because I too am part of Your Paintings.90 Ugo's sentiments corresponded to the general tenor of the Italian press and public reaction as recorded i n Cooke's report and as noted by Marini i n Notiziario d'Arte: Shahn has been a revelation for us. He spoke to us, he impressed us, he attracted us again . . . . We have encountered i n him a delicacy and a v i r i l e energy, bitter and sometimes ir o n i c a l , i n - Q 1 timate and extrovert, r i c h with a richness of content and imagery. It was not necessary to place Liberation out of view i n a back room at the 1954 Biennale for reasons of "public order." As an a r t i s t , Shahn spoke the 'truth' about the events of the real world. The v a l i d i t y of this truth, however, depended largely upon his art being recognizably modern. This distinguished i t from the art of the communist social r e a l i s t s , who presented the same issues but, because of their manner of presentation,,-were labelled propagandists rather than bearers of truth. "Ben Shahn," commented the German c r i t i c Heinz Keller i n 1954, "appears to succeed in doing what "Social Realism" fu t i l e y attempts: the revival of subject matter 92 i n a legitimately modern form." Furthermore, for any art i n the twentieth century i n America or Western Europe to maintain i t s ideological monopoly on relevant truths, i t had to remain i n the forefront of the modernist revolution, since outmoded styles connoted outmoded truths. Yet a connection had also to be maintained with the old masters and thus with the 'universal' truths found i n a l l art of a l l ages. Abstract expressionism succeeded i n both—-in the former through i t s total rejection of subject matter, and i n the latter through i t s 90 evocation of primeval, primitive instincts~but was, as has been shown, i n -93 appropriate for Europe i n 1954. Shahn, though not i n the absolute forefront of technical developments, revealed his modern roots i n Liberation with his collage-like building interior, his bright, f l a t colours,and his distorted perspective. "No one," stated the head of a Rome art gallery, "wants to return to the academic style of 1880 like the communists do. (Shahn) has found a style which i s wide enough i n range to allow him to say what he wants, 94 and he s t i l l i s as contemporary as avant-garde abstractionism." The two-dimenadonality, simple forms, precise outlines, and use of tempera i n Shahn^s work align him with the past masters of fourteenth and fifteenth-century Italian art. "In the art of Ben Shahn," claimed an article i n Corriere M i l i t a i r e , "one can find again that state of grace of fifteenth-century paint-95 ing;which gave a complete and penetrating picture of i t s time." ^  Liberation, then, contained a jumble of references to war, destruction, reconstruction, children, fifteenth-century Italian painters and the churches where their works were found, and modern art. Such references would have appealed, accordingly, to an Italian viewer's hatred of war, persistence and fortitude, sense of home and family, cultural pride, Catholic beliefs, and tastes for modern, but not too modern, art. And whichever of these references were perceived, once the associations surrounding them had run their course, the viewer would have been l e f t with the realization that the source of these possibly confusing but predominantly reassuring and familiar thoughts was the work of an American. Liberation also had an ideological significance that Was indicated i n i t s t i t l e rather than i n i t s images, a t i t l e that referred to a specific aspect of American foreign policy. Walter LaFeber, i n his book America, Russia and the  Cold War 1945-1975. discusses the change that occurred i n American foreign 91 i n 1950* In the summer of that year President Truman and his ^ Secretary of State Sean Acheson committed the United States to Formosa and Indochina, began re-arming Germany, nearly tripled American defence spending and— i n the climactic act—invaded North Korea i n order to show op-ponents at home and abroad that the United States was no longer content with mere "containment," but now aimed for liberation.96 While the policy of containment l a i d emphasis on the preservation of existing non-communist regimes i n order to prevent the expansion of Soviet -power, the policy of "liberation" allowed for a more offensive role i n the global fight against communism. This was particularly true i n Third World countries which had yet to commit themselves to either the East or the West. American acts of military aggression i n Korea and later i n Viet-Nam were jus t i f i e d i n terms of the "liberation" of the inhabitants of these countries from the forces of communism, rather than i n the more practical terms of the'protection of Ameri-ca's free access to the raw materials of these areas. This concept of liberation, therefore, would have been a familiar and public part of American foreign policy i n the early 1950s. In Italy the liberation to be carried out by the American government, or rather by the Christian Democrat government with American aid, was the freeing of the Italian voters from the grips of both communism and neo-fascism. The term would also have called up images of an earlier liberation of the Italian peninsula carried out by the Americans i n 1943* which had l e f t a certain amount of ran-cor among Italian citizens. Piovene paraphrased this rancor: "The American army came to free Europe and r i d i t of Fascism, and for this reason i t was hailed as a liberator. Of course, the pro-cess had i t s disadvantages. Europe came out of i t half destroyed, terrorized, s p i r i t u a l l y exhausted, and exposed on one side to Soviet invasion. Naturally, we don't mean to say that i t wasn't a good idea to r i d us of Fascism or that you Americans should have stayed home • • • ." Liberation was a good thing, but there was no need to enforce the "unconditional surrender," which broke down the last of Europe's defenses. Europeans did not ask to have the Russians brought into Berlin and Vienna, or to be slapped down when they dared utter a word of warning. 97 92 The excesses contained within this liberation, and American authoritarianism i n i t s aftermath, wounded Italian national pride. The fact that signs of simi-l a r excesses and authoritarianism were appearing i n America's 1950s liberation of Italy and the rest of Western Europe aroused further criticisms and added to the steadily increasing Italian nationalist sentiment. The authoritarianism took the form of threats to withdraw Marshall Plan aid or to deploy nuclear weapons i n Europe i f obstacles to American economic and military objectives 98 were not removed. The excesses appeared most glaringly i n American an t i -communist rhetoric. Again, Piovene provided an indication of l i b e r a l Italian opinion with regard to the latter: Europeans . . . do not fe e l obliged to make a choice between war and destruction on the one hand and communism on the other . . . . In short, our anti-communism i s not identical with the American brand . . . . Communism i s part of our history, a piece of our game. It was born i n our streets and universities, as an erroneous answer to the problems consequent upon the disintegration of our ruling class. This i s why European anti-communists do not wish to see too much of a heating of the cold war, why they fe e l they must argue their enemies into silence rather than knock them over the head. Europe thinks of i t s e l f as being up against a heresy of i t s own creation, a d i s -eased organ of i t s own body, and i t wants to effect a cure by some method other than k i l l i n g . . . . Europe i s not opposed to the communist ingredient which i s already a part of i t ; i t i s opposed only to communist domination. And i t s purpose i s to conserve the freedom and variety of i t s various philosophies.99 Piovene advised the United States that a more effective way to help Europeans battle communism than by force of arms (NATO, EDC) would be to "increase i t s prestige and make i t s e l f respected even among those who seem least to understand it."^°° America's response to such advice was i t s massive propaganda campaign, and the exhibition of Ben Shahn's work at the 1954 Biennale was a part of this campaign. Shahn's attitude toward communism also paralleled-that expressed by Piovene, for while he condemned communist cures for the i l l s of society, he fought for the basic freedoms of communists themselves i n America. In 1952 he was one of the people who signed an open 93 l e t t e r to President Truman asking amnesty for the eleven Communist Party 101 leaders convicted under the Smith Act i n 1948* His support of the l i b e r a l doctrine of assimilation, of re-educating communists rather than k i l l i n g them, would have gained him favour with a l l but the extreme right and l e f t ends of the Italian p o l i t i c a l spectrum and would have helped offset the extremism of 102 much o f f i c i a l American anti-communist propaganda. He was the humanitarian l i b e r a l appealing to a l l classes to work together peacefully toward a common goal—American democracy. His paintings were, i n the words of Pi Ion Ugo, "the emblem, the avanguard ( s i c ) , the invitation to a l l Social classes to walk 103 toward Humanity." The Red Stairway, like Liberation, deals with the destruction caused by World War I I . It was painted i n 1944, when the war was over i n Italy but not i n a l l parts of Europe. A one-legged man climbs a bright red stairway which i s propped against the remaining wall of a bombed-out building. Behind the wall to the l e f t i s a pile of rubble surmounted by a network of rafters. To the right of the stairway a desolate, rocky landscape stretches back to the horizon and i s occupied, i n the foreground, by a lone figure bent under the load of a basket of stones. His shirt i s similar i n colour and texture to the stone that he carries and that surrounds him. Again, *re find the same ambiguity that characterized Liberation. What i s the meaning of this stairway that acts as a bridge between the two figures and that leads them, along with the eye of the viewer, in endless circles? Are the rafters remnants of the old building or the beginnings of a new one? Is the stone carrier r i s i n g out of the earth or sinking into i t ? Who i s this cripple ascend-ing the stairway, and i s he a sign of hope or of f u t i l i t y ? Such ques-tions create that play back and forth which Shahn spoke of to Morse. It i s a play that i s strikingly evident i n the style of The Red Stairway 94 as well. In the area below the rafters Shahn has u t i l i z e d Cezanne's 'passage' technique to create confusion as to the actual shape and consistency of the form being depicted. The right portion of this area i s placed at an angle to the picture plane that suggests one half of a corner. Yet the l e f t portion, even though i t completes with i t s top edge the corner begun by the right, con-tradicts this shape by appearing instead to meet the right section behind i t s front edge and parallel to the picture plane, whether this area i s supposed to represent stone, sky, or earth i s also uncertain, for i t combines the tex-tures and colours of a l l three as portrayed elsewhere i n the painting. A further play back and forth between flatness and depth i s found i n the manner in which the sharply-receding plane of the main wall i s brought up short by the large red patch halfway down i t s length, which represents the underside of the staircase. The references to past art i n The Red Stairway are numerous. In addi-tion to having u t i l i z e d Cezanne's 'passage' technique, Shahn appears to have l i f t e d his crippled figure straight out of Manet's Rue Mosnier Decked With  Flags of 1878 (Figure 19)» removing the figure's right leg rather than his l e f t . The stairway i n Shahn's painting i s also suggested by the ladder and the shadows on the road i n Manet's work, and both paintings u t i l i z e the same sharply-receding perspective. While these similarities would not have been evident to the majority of the viewing public, they would have provided those who were aware of them with a connection between Shahn, Manet, and the mod-ernist tradition, thus establishing Shahn's v a l i d i t y as a modern a r t i s t i n the eyes of those to whom historical continuity was important.^ 0 4 Within the limits of Shahn's own work, this mysterious figure i n a plain black suit with his back to us recurs a number of times, usually with 95 Figure 19 . Edouard Manet, Rue Mosnier Decked With Flags, 1878 Jakob Goldschmidt C o l l e c t i o n (Georges B a t a i l i e . Manet. Lausanne, Switz.: S k i r a , n.d. Page 98) 96 two legs and no crutches. He i s most often associated with a disaster that has just occurred and appears, i n pairs, i n Death of a Miner (1949) and Miners' Wives (1948) (Figure 5 ) . In both these paintings, as well as i n The Red Stairway, the anonymity of these figures suggests a sense of help-lessness and acceptance of disaster rather than an active determination to prevent further disasters by dealing with their causes. J Those who perceived the connection between Shahn's cripple and Manet's painting might also have noted some association between the stone carrier i n The Red Stairway and The Stonebreakers of Courbet. The figures i n both paintings are engaged i n seemingly endless tasks, their determination, or resignation, suggesting that they w i l l continue thus u n t i l their deaths. Most Italians, however, would have been able to identify with the sense of endless struggle and poverty i n The Red Stairway without the aid of this nineteenth-century French canvas, the desolate, rocky landscape i n which Shahn's figure labours so closely resembling the southern part of their own . 106 country. The references i n The Red Stairway to past Italian art provided f u r -ther possible means by which the Italian public could relate to this painting. The sharply-angled wall marked by a series of arched windows and the macabre atmosphere of the work carry reminders of the art of Chirico, particularly such a painting as his Melancholy and Mystery of a Street 107 (Figure 20). ' The influence of fourteenth and fifteenth-century Italian artis t s i s found i n a number of elements within the painting. The simple massive figures, plain walls, arched windows,and general sense of narrative suggest such fourteenth-century artists as Giotto, Duccio, and Maso di Banco. The presence of two notable fifteenth and sixteenth-century artists i s i n -dicated i n a somewhat more indirect manner. The broken, jagged end of the 9 7 Figure 2 0 . Giorgio de Chirico, Melancholy and Mystery of a Street, 1 9 1 4 (Rodman. Portrait. Page 1 0 0 ) 98 wall i n Shahn*s painting was a device used by both Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro B o t t i c e l l i to divide up space i n their depictionsof The Adoration  of the Magi* Two such paintings would have been accessible to the Italian 108 public i n the U f f i z i Gallery i n Florence (Figures 21 and 2 2 ) . The rafters i n Shahn's painting can also be found i n another version of The Adoration  of the Magi by B o t t i c e l l i , where a similar network of beams covers the figures of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus (Figure 2 3 ) . The sharp, jagged wall and blackened rafters i n Shahn*s painting carried, therefore, two possible sets of connotations: death and destruction, and joy and rebirth. Shahn thus created that sense of balance and play back and forth that was so important to him and to American liberalism. Shahn has identified himself i n The Red Stairway with a lengthy a r t i s -t i c tradition ranging from the primitivism of fourteenth-century Italians to the realism of Courbet, the modernism of Manet and Cezanne, and the surreal-ism of de Chirico. Italians who saw this work at the 1954 Biennale could have attached importance to any or a l l of these associations, depending upon which coincided with their own ideas regarding the role of contemporary art in society—should i t be narrative l i k e the works of fourteenth-century Italian arti s t s or should i t merely concern i t s e l f with the s t y l i s t i c developments begun by the French modernists? A viewer's level of education, a r t i s t i c or otherwise, would also have influenced his or her awareness of these various associations, people often tending to see what they are taught to see. Of a l l the references to past art i n Shahn's painting, those referring to fourteenth and fifteenth-century Italian a r t i s t s , whose works were so highly visible throughout the country, would have been most easily discernible to the Italian public i n general. The reviews of the 1954 Biennale i n Corriere M i l i t a i r e . Paragone, 9 9 Figure 21. Leonardo da Vinci, Adoration of the Magi, c. 1481 U f f i z i Gallery, Florence (Cecil Gould. Leonardo. Boston: N.Y. Graphic Society, 1975. Page 42. Figure 17) Figure 22. Sandro Botticelli, Adoration of the Magi, early 1 4 7 0 s U f f i z i Gallery, Florence (Lionello Venture. Bott i c e l l i , Vienna: Phaidon, 1 9 3 7 . Plate 1 6 ) 100 Figure 23. Sandro B o t t i c e l l i , Adoration of the Magi, 1482 National Gallery, Washington, D.C. Mellon Collection (Frederick Hartt. History of Italian Renaissance Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1969. Page 286. Figure 345) 101 and Sele Arte a l l noted the connection between Shahn's work and these early 109 Italian a r t i s t s , though none of the reviews mentioned any specific works. The interpretations of Shahn's painting when i t was f i r s t produced were slightly different than those i n Italy i n 1 9 5 4 . In 1 9 4 5 the American busi-ness magazine Fortune described his whole series of war paintings, of which The Red Stairway was a part, as "personal, emotional statements put down i n 1 1 0 a style l i t t l e related to past masters or current schools of art." They were, for Fortune, representative of an America that had attained, i n i t s new role as world leader, both p o l i t i c a l and cultural independence from Europe. The Red Stairway was described i n this magazine as having had i t s genesis i n Shahn's memoryuof the eruption of Mt. Etna and the persistence of the Italian people i n returning to their destroyed homes. It embodied, there-fore, that persevering, homeloving image of Italy so aptly presented by Soby 111 i n his essay on Shahn i n the MOMA Biennale catalogue. The colour red, which occupies so prominent a place i n The Red Stairway and i n many of Shahn's other paintings, contributed to a further interpreta-tion of his work i n America. As the United States moved into the Cold War and the ideological threat of communism reared i t s ugly head, Shahn's prefer-ence for this colour resulted i n certain people accusing him of having com-munist allegiances. In 1 9 4 8 Henry McBride, art c r i t i c for the New York Sun, attacked the painting Allegory, with i t s large red l i o n (Figure 2 4 ) , as "a subtle tribute to our quondam friend but present enemy, the Soviet Republic," and condemned the p o l i t i c a l implications of Shahn's work as "the shadiest. The shade often i s red, and i t i s this time." He further suggested that 1 1 2 Shahn be deported along with the Red Dean of Canterbury. It i s possible, therefore, that The Red Stairway could have carried similar communist associa-tions for reactionary Italians i n the unsettled p o l i t i c a l atmosphere of 1 9 5 4 . 102 I Figure 24. Ben Shahn, Allegory, 1948 Fort Worth Art Center In Memory of Mrs. J. Bomar and Mr. W.C. Phil l i p s (Rodman. Portrait. Page 40) 103 Fortune also commented on the manner i n which Shahn dealt with the sub-ject of war: The most penetrating war art has not depicted battle action. How could i t ? Battle action i n war painting i s like the sex act i n the literature of love; artist s have learned that literalism i s the worse part of esthetic valor. 1^3 Shahn's paintings provided one alternative to the l i t e r a l depictions of battle action. Abstract expressionism provided another, though i t had yet to mater-i a l i z e on the American art scene i n 1945* Shahn's anonymous figures, his symbolism, his sense of pathos, found favour with an audience unprepared to allow the r e a l i t i e s of war to invade the domain of fine art. Of Shahn's presentation of post-war reconstruction i n The Red Stairway Cooke writes: Described i n words or painted by a lesser a r t i s t , the theme would be either sentimental or propagandistic. With the l y r i c a l vision of Shahn i t i s neither, but i s a simple description of the seemingly f u t i l e endeavour of the dispossessed people, stated with compassion and poetic sincerity. ^ 4 In 1951 Selden Rodman described Shahnis series of war paintings i n a manner similar to that of Fortune: The impression conveyed by these ten pictures may be summed up in the word 'pathos'. The war i s seen not i n terms of action or battle or masses or ideals. It i s seen i n terms of desolation, homelessness, loneliness, c i v i l i a n starvation and the individual sufferer. 115 It i s by focussing on the individual sufferer that one i s prevented from seeing the broader implications of such suffering and the actions needed to deal with the source of the problem rather than the symptoms. Both Liberation and The Red Stairway were, without a doubt, finely crafted works of art. In their sensitive handling of colour and l i n e — t h e latter i n the refined tradition of Paul KLee—they held great visual appeal for Italians and non-Italians alike. But underlying this aesthetic appeal was a series of complex associations which gave to these works a particular s i g -nificance i n Italy i n 1954* And because these two paintings contained such 1 0 4 a great number of interpretative p o s s i b i l i t i e s , they were able to win ap-1 1 6 proval from the broadest possible range of the Italian public. No one person would have been able to perceive a l l of the associations contained within their borders. But there was a good chance that among the references to family, reconstruction, religion, Italian fourteenth-century art, French modernism, and Italian surrealism, each individual viewer would have been able to find some theme or figure that struck a positive note. And the more positive notes struck for Shahn, the sweeter the song for America. 105 Footnotes -i A l l of these writings have been referenced i n footnotes 2 5 to 2 7 of the Introduction. The o f f i c i a l Biennale catalogue was obviously important, as well,as promotional literature, but i t included the same essays on the artists as appeared i n MOMA's catalogue. 2 "Prizes cannot be viewed i n isolation, as sudden bounty; they are almost always part of a series of public events? (Alloway, Venice Biennale. pp. 20-21). Prizes were important because they would increase the prestige of an ar t i s t and thus the value of his or her work. Shahn was the recipient of the Sao Paolo purchase prize at the 1954 Venice Biennale. ^Shahn was also included i n MOMA's international exhibition "Twelve Modern American Painters and Sculptors" that travelled throughout Europe during 1 9 5 3 - 5 4 , and was part of the U.S. exhibition at the 1 9 5 3 Sao Paolo Biennale where he was awarded a major prize. In addition, articles on him appeared i n both the pi l o t and F a l l , 1 9 5 2 issues of the American interna-tional magazine Perspectives. USA (Selden Rodman, "Ben Shahn," Perspectives  USA, p i l o t issue (January 1 9 5 2 ) : 5 9 - 7 2 ; Selden Rodman, "Ben Shahn: Painter of America," Perspectives USA (Fa l l 1 9 5 2):87 - 1 0 4 ) . Both articles were accom-panied by reproductions of Shahn's work, including Handball, Liberation, and Miners' Wives. 4Ben Shahn, "The Artist and the P o l i t i c i a n , " Rights 1 (May 1953):n.p. Shahn was a member of the Freedom of the Arts Committee of the Emergency C i v i l Liberties Committee. He was a sponsor of the January 1 9 5 3 Conference along with Albert Einstein, Thomas Emerson, F. Lloyd Wright, and others. His talk was part of the Freedom of the Arts forum at this conference, and was accompanied by talks by the authors Matthew Josephson and Merle Miller, James Thrall Soby, and the economist J. Raymond Walsh. He also designed a poster for the conference (Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D144). ^Ben Shahn, "The Artist and the P o l i t i c i a n , " Art News 5 2 (September 1 9 5 3 ) : 3 4 - 3 5 + . ^Shahn had been named, along with a number of other modern a r t i s t s , i n Senator George Dondero's attacks on modern art i n Congress. See U.S., Congress, House, Senator George Dondero, "Communist Art i n Government Hos-p i t a l s , " 81st Cong., 1st Sess., 11 March 1 9 4 9 , Congressional Record, 9 5 : 2317-18; and U.S., Congress, House, Senator George Dondero, "Communist Maneuver to Control Art i n the United States," 81st Cong., 1st Sess., 2 5 March 1 9 4 9 , Congressional Record, 9 5 : 3 2 3 4 . He was also labelled communist by the lea f l e t Counterattack (25^July 1 9 5 2 ) for his support of, among other things, the B i l l of Rights Conference, the National Council of Arts, Sciences and Professions, the defense of the Hollywood Ten, and Henry Wallace's presidential campaign. 7Shahn, "L'Artista e i l politicismo," pp. 26-27. Ibid., p. 2 5 106 9 7Ibid., p. 28. 1 0 I b i d . , p. 29. 11 Ibid., p. 28. Sele Arte was an Italian art journal similar i n content and p o l i t i c a l stance to Art News. 12 Ibid. See the quote by Hughes^included on page 18 of Chapter One of this paper. 13 Shahn, "L'Artista e i l politicismo," p. 26. 1 4 C a r l o Ragghianti, "Lettura Aperta," Sele Arte, no. 4 (January-February 1953)s42. L i s t s o f senators and of artists are found on pages 42 and 43 respectively. 15 Beh:Shahn, quoted i n MOMA, 2 P i t t o r i , n.p., and taken from a lecture given at Harvard University i n April 1951. Art c r i t i c Peyton Boswell commented i n 1949 on the su i t a b i l i t y of modern art as a representative of American culture: ".». . l,modernw art i s one of our strongest outposts of rugged i n -dividualism, or private enterprise and the valuable human desire to build that better mousetrap (Peyton Boswell, "A Plea For Tolerance," Art Digest 24 (1 June 1949). quoted i n a speech i n Congress by Sena-tor Javits of New York on 23 August 1949 (Congressional Record, p. 12099))." While Shahn defended the right of art i s t s to produce social r e a l i s t art i f they so wished, he did not defend the quality of this art. His condemna-tions of Russian social r e a l i s t art w i l l be seen later. Also, Shahn's ideas on modern art and his canvases represented only one part of l i b e r a l ideology, while those of the abstract expressionists repre-sented another. For an analysis of the controversy over which of these two types of modem art was most "American," see Pohl, "Campaign of Truth;" 16 Shahn, "L'Artista e i l politicismo," p. 28. 17 For a record of Soby's involvement with MOMA and his upper-class background ("the scion of a Hartford family which had made i t s fortune i n the manufacture of pay telephones") see Lynes, Good Old Modem, pp. 235*403« 18 The f u l l text of Soby's essay and Shahn's statement can be found i n Appendix A. 19 'James T. Soby to Ben Shahn, 17 March 1954, Ben Shahn Papers, Reel B147. 20 Hughes, The United States and Italy, pp. 183-84. The similarity between this description and that of Soby and Shahn i s less surprising than at f i r s t glance, when i t i s remembered that a l l three men shared the same li b e r a l ideology and support for the American government. 21 This attempt to destroy the continuity of history f a i l e d , for abstract expressionism merely ended up being incorporated into the prevailing ideology 1 0 7 as the latest link i n the still-wibroken chain of art hi s t o r i c a l development. The importance of maintaining a link with the past has already been d i s -cussed i n footnote 71 of Chapter One. pp Barr, "Gli Stati U n i t i , " p. 6 6 . 23 The exact nature of these references w i l l be pointed out i n the d i s -cussions of Shahn1s paintings Liberation and The Red Stairway. 2 4Hugh es, The United States and Italy, p. 1 9 7 . 25 A sampling of newspaper articles dealing with this early anti-commu-nism and a discussion of the reasons behind i t can be found i n Robert Percy Weeks, ed., Commonwealth vs. Sacco and Vanzetti (Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1958). 2 6 Paul von Blum, The Art of Social Conscience (New York: Universe Books, 1 9 7 6 ) , p. 1 0 1 . 27 Sacco and Vanzetti were charged with the robbery and murder of a paymaster and guard at a shoe factory i n South Braintree, Massachusetts. For an account of their t r i a l see Weeks, Commonwealth; Herbert B. Ehrman, The Untried Case; the Sacco-Vanzetti Case and the Morelli Gang (New York: Vanguard Press, 1955); and Eugene Lyons, The Life and Death of Sacco and  Vanzetti (New York: International Publishers, 1 9 2 7 ) . 2 8 V i t t o r i o Zincone, "Moral America," i n Burnham, What Europe Thinks of  America, p. 48. 29 •^Hughes, The United States and Italy, pp. 198-99. 5°Ibid., p. 1 7 7 . ^ I b i d . , p. 1 7 6 . A similar American-backed purge of labour unions occurred at this same time i n Prance. ^2The Marshall Plan was also announced at Harvard i n 1 9 4 7 . ^Ben Shahn, "Some Revaluations of Commercial and Pine Art," talk pre-sented i n 1 9 5 0 to the students of Franklin School i n Sew York, i n John D. Morse, ed., Ben Shahn, second printing (New York: Praeger, 1 9 7 4 ) , p. 1 2 7 . 3 4 I b i d . , p. 1 2 6 . ^Robert Motherwell, "The Modem Painters World," Dyn 6 ( 1 9 4 4 ) , quoted i n Barbara Rose, Readings In American Art Since 1 9 0 0 (New York: Praeger, 1 9 6 7 ) , P. 1 3 1 . ^Mark Rothko, statement i n P o s s i b i l i t i e s : An Occasional Review, no. 1 (Winter 1 9 4 7 - 4 8 ) : 8 4 . 3 7 F o r the exact -T ; meaning of these phrases for abstract expressionists see Guilbaut, "Creation et Developpement d'une Avant-garde Americaine," (Ph.D.). 108 ^8Ben Shahn, Paragraphs on Art (New York: Spiral Press, 1952), n.p. 59 Gian P. Paoli, a vwriter for the communist paper II Contemporaneo, condemns non-objective art as "a truly'pure' art, detached from material r e a l i t y and from the everyday preoccupations of common man" (Gian P. Paoli, ''Ben Shahn i n Cantina," II Contemporaneo. 25 Settembre 1954, P« 1 ) . For a sample of Russia's attacks on abstract art see'&Aline B. Saarinen, "USSR vs. Abstract—A leading Soviet Cultural Organ Attacks International Moderns," New York Times, 22 August 1954. sect. II, p. 8. 4°The EDC was f i n a l l y defeated i n August 1954 by the French governments refusal to r a t i f y i t . Of American pressures on Europe to rearm Kolko writes that "the Europeans understood the costs to their own economies; for rearm-ament, after the f i r s t stimulus to production, was guaranteed ultimately to worsen their situation by increasing the cost of imported raw materials, leaving them much less to export or consume" (Kolko, Limits of Power, p. 637). 4^The belief i n the central importance of the individual was one of the basic tenets of American democratic ideology. In a 1960 study entitled United  States Foreign Policy: Ideology and Foreign Affairs conducted by the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University (Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office, i 9 6 0 ) the f i r s t of seven basic elements i n America's constitutional democracy was described as follows: "The human person and his unique worth stands at the center of the democratic doctrine. From this follows the deep concern for human liberty and dignity. Human welfare i s the measure of social and state action; the human being i s looked on as an end i n himself and not as a means or instrument to be manipulated by the society or state" (p. 8). 4 2 F o r more information on Barr see Lynes, Good Old Modern and Dwight Macdonald, "Profiles: Action on West Fifty - t h i r d S t r e e t — I I , " The New Yorker, 19 December 1953, pp. 35-66. 43 'Barr, " G l i Stati U n i t i , " p. 62. Barr's response to the attacks of American legislators can be found i n his ar t i c l e "Is Modern Art Communistic?" New York Times Magazine, 14 December 1953, PP. 22+. 3arr, "Gli Stati U n i t i , " p. 64. Shahn's notion of "human condition", while taking into consideration the r e a l i t y of such things as war and poverty, does not view them i n terms of class interests or conflicts. 45 Ibid., p. 65. Shahn painted this series i n 1932 though, five years after the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti. 4^For the Christian Democrat Party, "a p o l i t i c a l movement both of great landowners and of poor peasants, of industrialists and of Catholic workers, and of a l l the different types of middle-class citizens," the only common factor uniting them a l l was Catholicism (Hughes, The United States and Italy, p. 167). 4 7The American government's responsibility lay, ultimately, i n i t s refusal to stay the executions of the two Italian-Americans. According to Katharine 109 Porter, Mussolini even sent a personal letter, to Governor Puller requesting such a stay of execution (Katharine Anne Porter, "The Never-Ending Wrong," Atlantic Monthly 23 (June 1977), p. 56). 4 8 B a r r , "Gli Stati U n i t i , " p. 64. 49 Hughes, i n The United States and Italy, documents, among other things, the nature and extent of this poverty and unemployment i n Italy i n 1953* 5°Barr, "Gli Stati Uniti," pp. 64-65. 5 1 I b i d . , p. 65. 52 New York, Museum of Modern Art, "Two Painters and Three Sculptors From the United States, Shown at the XXVII Biennale, Venice, June 19-0ctober 17» 1954»" New York, 110ctober 1956, p. 3. (Mimeographed) The Museum refused these requests because many of the paintings i n the Biennale exhibition had already been travelling i n Europe since early 1953 as part of MOMA's exhibi-tion "Twelve Modern American Painters and Sculptors," and the Museum f e l t i t would be unreasonable to request the lenders for a futher extension of these loans ( i b i d . ) . 53 H. Lester Cooke to Porter McCray, 20 December 1954, i n Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D148. There was, according to MOMA's press review, a certain amount of nega-tive press accompanying Shahn*s exhibition. "Art: d'Aujourd'hui described him as "more or less of a New Yorker i l l u s t r a t o r but with a rather sombre humor" while . . . a Milenese c r i t i c stated, "He i s more of a humourist than a real painter," and a London correspondent complained that "he sees the world from a gutter.""(p. 15) Clement Greenberg also commented: "At the Biennale i n Venice i n 1954, I saw how de Kooning's exhibition put to shame not only the neighboring one of Ben Shahn, but that of every other painter his age or under i n the other pavilions" (Greenberg, Art and Culture, p. 229). But the majority of the response to Shahn's exhibition was highly favourable. ^MOMA, "Press Reaction," pp. 11-12. 55 " I b i d . , p. 13. This Americanism was i n contrast to the universalism and internationalism seen i n de Kooning's art. While de Kooning's art did represent certain aspects of American . l i f e , they were not as obvious as the recognizably American content of Shahn's art. They were rather such notions as aggression, individualism, and ruggedness. 5 6 Lisa L i c i t r a Ponti, "Ben Shahn a Venezia," Domus, no. 298 (Settembre 1954):37. 57 'Franco Catania, Corriere d i S i c i l i a , 24 Agosto 1954, quoted i n MOMA, ••Press Reaction," p. 14. MOMA l i s t s this paper as an "independent" daily. ^ 8For a l i s t of Shahn's works appearing at the 1954 Venice Biennale see Appendix B. Washington-*! and gangsters could enter indirectly into the Sacco and Vanzetti and Tom Mooney works, and into his post-war paintings, but not in the positive manner suggested by Catania. 110 59 Alain Jouffroy, Arts-Spectacles. 29 J u i l l e t 1954, quoted i n MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 14. The t i t l e and page of the article were not given. Jouffroy was a supporter of surrealist art and the notion that art could act as a social c r i t i c . ^Hughes, The united States and Italy, p. 2 5 2 . 61 Catania, i n MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 12. ^^Douglas T. Miller and Marion Nowak, The F i f t i e s : The Way We Really  Were (Garden City, N.Y.: Douhleday & Co., 1977) , P. 406. Roberto Longhi also compared Shahn to Chaplin i n L'Europeo (Milan) on 4 July 1954 (quoted i n MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 10). 63 ^Shahn did drawings of these hearings for the cover of the 1 5 May 1954 issue of Nation and for an arti c l e appearing i n this issue by Edgar Kemler entitled "Will Joe Bolt the G.O.P.?" (pp. 4 1 9 - 2 1 ) . ^Catania, i n MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 12. 65 Pilon Ugo to Ben Shahn, 15 September 1 9 5 4 , translated by Leo Lionni, Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D148. 6 6 Cooke, report to MOMA, pp. 1-2. 67 Ibid., p. 4« This contrast between "dignified" and "ox-like" presenta-tions of workers and peasants resembles a similar contrast one hundred years earlier i n France between the work of Millet and Courbet. Millet's accep-tance was due largely to his passive depiction of the French peasantry, a depiction i n keeping with the French bourgeoisies's desired image of what, in the middle of the nineteenth century, was a far from docile section of the populace (see Eric J. Hobsbawn, Age of Capital. 1848-1875 (London: Weiden-feld and Nicolson, 1975 ) ) . Courbet, i n retaining a l l the coarseness of features and middle-class aspirations of this same peasantry i n his paintings of the late 1840s and early 1850s, threatened to destroy this image (see T.J. Clark, Image of the People: Gustave Courbet and the Second French  Republic 1848-1851 (Greenwich. Conn.: N.Y. Graphic Society. 1975) ) . Shahn, like M i l l e t , upheld the illusions of the powerful l i b e r a l middle class, as well as those of the peasants and workers themselves; communist painters such as Carlo Levi and Renato Guttuso attempted to di s p e l l these i l l u s i o n s . One of the major retrospective exhibitions i n the Italian pavilion was of the work of Courbet, made respectable by the passage of time. (La MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 12. ^Maria Poma, L'Ora (Palermo), 2 4 June 1954, quoted i n MOMA, "Press Reaction," pp. 12 -13. The t i t l e and page of the ar t i c l e were not given. 70 See Donald Drew Egbert, Socialism and American Art In the Light of European Utopianism, Marxism, and Anarchism, revised and expanded ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967) , p. 1 3 6 . 71 1 Harrison E. Salisbury, "Russia's Art Reflects Trends i n Russia," New York Times Magazine. 12 September 1954, PP. 8 -9 . 111 7 2John Berger, "Renato Guttuso," Apollo 61 (March 1 9 5 5 ) : 7 0 . 7 3 , lParty-Line Painter," Time, 3 0 November 1 9 5 3 , P» 7 4 . 7 4 I b i d . , 75 Paoli, "Ben Shahn," p. 1 . That Handball and not one of Shahn's pos-ters illustrated this a r t i c l e was probably due to the fact that the Museum only made available to the press reproductions of a limited number of Shahn's works. 7 S l O M A , "Press Reaction," p. 1 3 . The posters were not l i s t e d individual-l y i n MOMA's catalogue, as they were i n the large Biennale catalogue, but were l i s t e d merely as "A group of posters and prints';'.? 7 7 P a o l i , "Ben Shahn," p. 1 . 78 For illustrations of and information about a l l of these posters see Kenneth W. Prescott, The Complete Graphic Works of Ben Shahn (New York: Quandrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1 9 7 3 ) , PP. 1 1 7 - 3 2 . 79 Ibid., p. 1 2 1 . The same problem arose with Shahn's Sacco-Vanzetti series i n 1 9 3 2 . The Sacco-Vanzetti Glub i n L i t t l e Italy i n New York refused Edith Halpert's offer to s e l l them one of the paintings for $ 1 0 because "they thought the pictures were grotesque." The buyers of the works "from the Rockefellers on down, were from the other side of the tracks—or, p o l i t i c a l l y speaking, fence" (Selden Rodman, Portrait of the Artist As an  American, Ben Shahn: A Biography With Pictures (New York: Harper & Bros., 1 9 5 1 ) , P. 1 1 9 ) . 80 Rodman, Portrait, p. 6 3 . The Museum's status as a private institution would have protected, i t from most such prohibitions. The poster Nazi Brutality dealt with the execution of allrrmale inhabitants and 5 6 women of the village of Lidice, Czechoslovakia, and the placement of the remaining women i n concentration camps and children i n correction-schools. A l l buildings were then levelled to the ground. A l l this was done because the Germans suspected some of the inhabitants of this village of being involved i n thefekilling of the German Police General and Reichsprotektor for Bohemia and Moravia. Many of Shahn's CIO posters were also l e f t unused because of union leaders* objections to their militancy (ibid., p. 5 5 ) . 81 H. Lester Cooke, report to MOMA, p. 2 . 82M0MA, "Press Reaction," p. 1 1 . 83Rodman, Portrait. p. 144. OA The fact that MOMA made reproductions of Shahn's works available to the press may have contributed somewhat to the number of times his work appeared i n magazines and newspapers. 8^M0MA, "Press Reaction," p. 4 . 86 Cooke, report to MOMA, p. 5 . 1 1 2 87 Crane Brinton, John B. Christopher, and Robert Lee Wolff, A History  of C i v i l i z a t i o n . Volume Two: 1 7 1 5 to the Present, second ed.(Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1 9 6 0 ) , p, 5 7 7 . This quote i s part of the description of a f u l l page color reproduction,on the opposite page,of Liberation, a repro-duction that introduced the section on the Cold War. 88 John D. Morse, "Ben Shahn: An Interview," Magazine of Art 37 (April 1944):138. g o Rodman, Portrait, p. 6 2 . The pole i n Shahn1s painting could also represent the same sense of ambiguity and f u t i l i t y as the 'mats de cocagne1 i n Manet's 1862 lithograph The Balloon. A 'mat de cocagne' was a greased pole at the top of which were various g i f t s . In Manet's print there are five of these poles, the outside two being climbed by young children. Sitting i n the center foreground, though, i s a crippled child who i s unable to enjoy the g i f t s at the top of the pole. A large balloon occupies the center of the engraving, a sign of progress and momentary escape from the sufferings of the poor and crippled who w i l l not benefit from such progress. The similarities between the poles i n Manet's and Shahn*s paintings was pointed out to me i n a conversation with Serge Guilbaut. Also see, Brad Collins, "Manet's 'Rue Mosnier decked with Flags' and the Flaneur Concept," Burlington  Magazine 1 1 7 (November 1 9 7 5 ) : 7 1 3 . 90 Ugo, l e t t e r to Shahn. 91 Marini, i n MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 1 1 . 9 2Heinz Keller, "XXVII biennale," Werk 41 (August 1954):sup. 1 9 1 . 93 For G-reenberg, abstract expressionism's lack of recognizable content resulted i n i t s "radical inadaptibility to the uses of any interest, ideologi-cal or institutional," thus guaranteeing "the truth with which i t expresses us" (see footnote 7 9 , Chapter One). 94 ' Quoted i n Cooke, report to MOMA, p. 4 . ^MiiW.B., Corriere Militare•., 1 9 - 2 5 December 1 9 5 4 , quoted i n MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 1 1 . The Corriere^Militare was the bulletin of the armed forces i n Rome. 9 6LaFeber, Cold War, p. 108. 9 7Piovene, "Ungrateful Europe," pp. 1 2 1 - 2 2 . 9 8LaFeber, Cold War, pp. 1 6 9 - 7 0 , 9 9Piovene, "Ungrateful Europe," pp. 126-28. 1 0 0 I b i d . , p. 1 3 1 . 101 These men were found guilty of conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government by force. 1 0 2 The American government had to continue i t s extreme anti-communist 1 1 3 pronouncements up u n t i l 1954 because of the pressures of McCarthyism. After McCarthy's censure i n 1954 the government was able to relax this extremism somewhat. ^^Ugo, letter to Shahn. 1 0 4Manet 's work depicts the f e s t i v i t i e s of 3 0 June 1878, the f i r s t holiday celebrated since Prance had entered and been defeated i n the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. While the speed with which i t had repaid i t s enormous reparations and rebuilt i t s economy undoubtedly contributed to the joyousness of the occasion, the one-legged war veteran served "as a reminder of the human cost of war, of the price i n l i f e and limb exacted by such conflicts" (Collins, "Rue Mosnier," pp. 710, 713). Italy, as well, was faced after WWII with the rebuilding of i t s economy and with the payment of 3 6 0 million dollars to Russia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania and Ethiopia. These countries had refused to follow the lead of the Western powers i n renouncing any claim to reparations (Hughes, The United States and Italy, p. 212). 105 This figure also appears i n Shahn's painting Self-Portrait Among  Church-Goers of 1939. His presence here could refer to the evils caused by the intolerance present i n much orthodox Christianity. 106 The Stonebreakers by Courbet was destroyed by f i r e during WWII. 107 Ponti describes Shahn as "a graphic a r t i s t of exceptional talent, whose s a t i r i c a l forms are derived from surrealism" (Ponti, "Pittura a l i a Biennale," Domus, no. 298 (Settembre 1 9 5 4 ) : 5 0 ) . 108 The painting by Leonardo also includes the placement of two s t a i r -ways against the half-destroyed wall, though they are situated perpendicular rather than parallel to the wall. The broken-wall motif appears i n many fourteenth and fifteenth-century paintings. Another example can be found i n Maso d i Banco's St. Sylvester Resuscitating Two Deceased Romans of c. 1 3 4 0 i n the Bardi d i Vernio Chapel, Sta. Croce, Florence. 109 ^Corriere Militare, quoted i n MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 1 1 ; Alberto Martini, "Ben Shahn," Paragone. no. 57 (Settembre 1 9 5 4 ) : 6 5 ; and "XXVTIa Biennale d i Venezia: Ben Shahn," Sele Arte, no. 12 (May-June 1 9 5 4 ) : 3 2 . The author of the Sele.;Arte a r t i c l e also compares Shahn to Grosz and Vivin, while Martini compares''him to Grosz and Klee. In a letter to Shahn dated 31 October 1954 two Italian art students also described the children i n Liberation as "angel-like" and found that Cherubs and Children reminded them of Fra An-gelico da Fiesole. They went on to:,compare the weeping figures i n Death of a Miner to the depictions of the taking down of Christ from the cross by Italian primitives and the walls i n May 5 to the "voids" and "plentitudes" of Maso d i Banco's St. Silvestro stories (Marisa Volpi and Carla Lonzi to Ben Shahn,Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D148). 110 "Aftermath of War: A Portfolio of Paintings by Ben Shahn," Fortune 32 (December 1 9 4 5 ) : 1 6 9 . 111 See the previous discussion of this image of Italy i n Chapter Two, pages 4 5 - 4 6 of this paper. 1 1 4 112 Quoted in Rodman, Portrait, p. 39* Shahn later devoted a whole book, The Biography of a Painting (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, Fogg Art Museum, 1956) to an explanation of the non-political motivations behind Allegory. While the particular color and structure of the stairway could well have been interpreted i n Italy i n 1954 as symbolizing the f u t i l i t y of following the path of communism, i t i s less certain whether this was Shahn's original intention i n 1944. He was working at the time for the P o l i t i c a l Action Committeesof the CIO, and though he was not a communist, he was a strong supporter of the leader of the l e f t wing of the Democratic Party, Henry Wallace. Russia, also, was s t i l l viewed as America's a l l y and the battle against communism had yet to surface i n America as a major concern. A look at Shahn's work as a whole reveals a constant use of the colour red to s i g -n i f y a general sense of danger and foreboding, whether i n the trees of Peter  and the Wolf (1943) and Father and Child (1946), the blood of Death on the  Beach (1945) or the large l i o n of Allegory (1948). His near death i n a f i r e when he was a child may have added to the significance this colour held for him. It would benmore reasonable, then, to suggest that Shahn intended the red stairway to symbolize the f u t i l i t y and horror of war i n general, rather than of communism i n particular. 1 1 5 mAftermath," p. 169. 1 1 4Cooke, report to MOMA, p. 3. 115 Rodman, Portrait, p. 58. 116 Italian c r i t i c s saw references to other European artists i n Shahn's works,'.in addition tothose discussed i n this paper. According to Cooke, the correspondent for Incom, the weekly Roman magazine, commented that Shahn "has learned the lessons of Matisse, Rouault, Chagall and Klee, and s t i l l emerges with a personality of style which i s entirely his own? (Cooke, report to MOMA, p. 4). 115 CONCLUSION What i s this world against which the art of de Kooning rages with such fury? We have observed with true interest (we would not dare say with any sense of identification) his series of female figures . . . . G. Mario Marini, i n Notiziario d'Arte» 1954 A Roman lawyer told me,1The American has become for us the foreigner par excellence. It used to be the Englishman whose wealth we saw and envied, now i t i s you. We often think of Americans as r i c h , friendly, but slightly irresponsible c h i l -dren, who have not experienced enough hardship to be adult i n our sense of the word. It comes as a surprise, therefore, and in a way i t i s flattering, to see an American painter with such a deep understanding of l i f e here i n Italy . . . . Shahn sees things from the inside; we fe e l he i s one of us.' H. Lester Cooke, Director of the American Pavilion, 1954 Success and Failure at the XXVII Venice Biennale The Museum of Modern Art chose to send to Venice two painters described by Barr i n La Biennale as having not only radically different personalities, but as leading "two antagonistic styles of American art,"^ In the promo-tional literature their differences were further emphasized. De Kooning was discussed solely i n terms of his art and position i n the avant-garde of the art world, Shahn in terms of his p o l i t i c s and his relationship to Italy. There was a difference i n the tenor of these discussions as well. The descrip-tions of de Kooning's art were vague and esoteric, f i l l e d with phrases such as 'tensions between space and things', 'juxtapositions of organic and i n -2 organic phenomena', and'suggestive and associative ambiguity*. Shahn, on the other hand, was described i n an informal, almost chatty, manner, a man-ner used to relate anecdotes from his childhood, his concern for the poor and oppressed, and the nature of his vast acceptance and financial success in America. These differences can be explained i n terms of the audiences 116 at which the work and personalities of these two artists were aimed. De Kooning's art was presented as proof to the avant-garde of the European art world that, contrary to the general climate of opinion i n Eur-ope and Russia, America was not only cultured, but i n the forefront of contemporary a r t i s t i c developments. While this art may have succeeded i n proving the former, i t did not, as was seen earlier, convince i t s audience of the latter. Indeed, whatever successes de Kooning's art might have en-joyed i n the more advanced European art circles were more than offset by the negative impression the aggressiveness of this art made on the more general viewing public. It was with this public that Shahn's work found exceptional favour, a public composed of industrial workers, peasants, intellectuals, Christian Democrat government o f f i c i a l s , l i b e r a l and conservative art c r i t i c s , and a few slightly reluctant communist writers. In spite of a l l their differences, there was one common factor that united these two "antagonistic" painters: they were both representatives of freedom and individualism in America—de Kooning the freedom to be unconven-tional, Shahn the freedom to be c r i t i c a l . How Shahn chose to exercize his freedom formed the basis of his popularity i n Italy. He appeared as the champion of the poor and oppressed, as an honest, sincere, concerned a r t i s t who harshly c r i t i c i z e d right and left-wing encroachments on the liberal-demo-cratic ideal that constituted the heart of the "American dream." He won the approval of the Italian public by proving that he was far from irresponsible, that he had experienced enough hardships to be able to empathize with their concerns and to portray the "beauty" and "dignity" of their poverty. In spite of a l l this success i t i s d i f f i c u l t , i f not impossible, to say how much of an affect Shahn's exhibition actually had on Italian-American relations. His paintings were only one small part of a large, intensive 1 1 7 barrage of American ideas and images aimed at Europe by both private and governmental agencies. And while his status as a fine artisttmay have added a certain element of 'truthfullness' to the messages presented i n his work, their limited number and circulation could not hope to compete with such sources of information as radio, cinema, the Church,and labour organizations* 3 America's propaganda effort i n f i l t r a t e d a l l of these media as well, and yet i t s a b i l i t y to maintain a positive, peace and freedom-loving image of America abroad was complicated by many factors. The most notable of these were the American government's continued nuclear and arms build-up and i t s military ventures i n such countries as Korea and Vietnam. 4 In the same manner Russia could either shore up the American image, such as by suppressing the 1 9 5 6 Hungarian revolution, or deflate i t with i t s p o l i t i c a l and cultural peace offensive. In Italy the Christian Democrat Party continued to rule throughout the 5 1 9 5 0 s , with the power of right-wing parties diminishing drastically by 1 9 5 8 . Yet the Communist Party maintained i t s hold on approximately one quarter of the Italian electorate. Indeed, the longest-lasting of De Gasperi's four immediate successors was Antonio Segni, a member of the l e f t wing of the Christian Democrats who ruled twenty-two months from 1 9 5 5 to 1 9 5 7 . Another indication of the growing influence of the Left was the April 1 9 5 5 election of Giovanni Gronchi, an elderly leader of the Christian Democrat Left, to the position of President of the Republic.** American attempts, therefore, to check the power of the Left i n Italy were largely ineffectual. The strength of this Left was too deeply rooted i n Italy's past. It was, as 7 Piovene pointed out, "part of our history, a piece i n our game." It was a strength based on a large and organized industrial working class who saw Q the Communist Party as i t s only hope of ^ raising i t s standard of l i v i n g . 118 The effect of the Italian government's 'opening to the l e f t ' was not an advantageous one for America in the area of foreign policy. It contri-buted to a growing belief i n Italy that "the l e f t i s t menace was a bogey i n -herited from the past, that i n the late 1950's and early 1960's there was not the remotest chance of a Soviet invasion welcomed by Italian Communist Q embraces." Such a belief challenged the ideological rationale behind De Gasperi's policy of cooperation with the United States and other countries of Western Europe. The left-wing supporters of this view within the government f e l t that Italy's demographic and economic needs should maintain priority over foreign policy concerns and that less money should be spent on a m i l i -tary build-up meant to combat an i l l u s o r y Russian threat. And while they agreed that Italy should remain within NATO, particularly after the Russian suppression of Hungary i n 1956, they were violently opposed to American missile bases i n Italy and to the American project of a European Multilateral nuclear f o r c e . ^ Segni, a left-wing Christian Democrat, was also responsible during his term as head of the government for the passing of a law r e s t r i c t i n g American exploitation of gas and o i l i n favour of the Italian public corpora-11 tion, the Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi. Ben Shahn fared better, than the American government i n Italy after the 1954 Biennale, as evidenced by the numerous requests for exhibitions of his work by both governmental and private agencies, and by the translation of 12 his biography by Selden Rodman into Italian. He also maintained his popu-l a r i t y within American government and art establishment c i r c l e s , appearing i n an Italian-U.S. exchange exhibition organized by the Boston Public Library i n 1954, the XXVIII Venice Biennale, along with de Kooning and thirty-three other artists sent over to i l l u s t r a t e the theme "America Paints the City"; and the 13 1959 USIA exhibition "U.S. Prints To Italy." J And he also continued i n his ) 119 role as o f f i c i a l representative of America, being invited i n 1956 to s i t on the jury for the selection of Fulbright candidates i n Italy, and appearing, three years later, on one of the most well-known and revered of America's 14 national symbols—the American postage stamp. Shahn remained, as well, i n the center of the American government's attempts to deal with l e f t and right-wing attacks on i t s l i b e r a l policies. Russia's peace offensive had taken the edge off i t s image as a threat to world freedom and peace, thus forcing the American government to respond favourably to this offensive i n order to counter the growing feeling that America's intransigent opposition to communism was working against world peace. But the improvement of American relations with Russia i n the latter half of the 1950s was complicated by the Cold War atmosphere which the American gov-ernment had so effectively established at home. Even though Senator McCarthy had been silenced i n 1954, the machinery of McCarthyism continued to operate for the remainder of the decade, largely through the House Un-American A c t i -v i t i e s Committee (HUAC). It was i n answering certain of the accusations of this Committee that Shahn again appeared as the c r i t i c a l representative and 15 defender of a l i b e r a l American democracy. In 1959 the USIA included an exhibition of American paintings as part 16 of the f i r s t o f f i c i a l American trade f a i r ever sent to Russia. The presence of works by Shahn and other artists with alleged records of communist a f f i l i -ations prompted the inevitable protests from reactionary artists such as Wheeler Williams, sculptor and President of the American Artists' Professional League, and from the chairman of the HUAC, Francis E. Walter. On 1 July 1959 Shahn was called before the Committee to defend the inclusion of his work i n 17 this exhibition. In his statement he praised the efforts of the American government to establish cultural relations with Russia and reaffirmed the 120 anti-reactionary sentiments expressed i n his a r t i c l e "The Artist and the P o l i t i c i a n : " The governments of the United States and Russia seeking to attain peace and. understanding for their peoples have arranged for the interchange of cultural, s c i e n t i f i c and other exhibi-tions • • • . whatever this Committee may succeed i n dragging out of the remote past of any a r t i s t i t interviews, I believe that i t s chief purpose i s not to serve this democracy or the public welfare, but that i t i s to v i l i f y and humiliate a certain group of artists whose work i s i n the vanguard, and whose thinking i s fresh and experi-mental. Whatever i t s temporary successes at home, the world effect of the Un-American Activities Committee has been more than once to turn us into an international laughing-stock, to lose us respect and friendship on every hand, to earn us the reputation of being a Philistine nation—^which we are not. The artists whom i t i s about to crucify are, on the other hand among our greatest international assets. Their names are known and honored i n every country i n Europe. Their works are coveted, their approach and understanding of art i s studied. Just how, and to what extent w i l l the present interrogation serve the National interest?'' 8 How and to what extent w i l l i t serve the National i n t e r e s t ? — s u c h 19 was the. basis of America's cultural propaganda offensive during the Cold War. De Kooning's art fa i l e d to serve this interest i n Europe i n 1954« Even though i t represented the same l i b e r a l democracy as did the art of Shahn, the p a r t i -cular aspects of this democracy that i t emphasized—aggression and innovation —were seen as either undesirable or unconvincing, creating anger or boredom but seldom praise. Ben Shahn's exhibiton at the 1954 Venice Biennale could have done nothing but serve the National interest. So thorough was the creation—through publicity and through the particular works that appeared at the Biennale—of an image of him as an honest, humanitarian, s o c i a l l y -conscious, l i b e r a l American a r t i s t that i t was hard to see the paintings for 20 the preconceptions. Of a l l these qualities, that which made the strongest impression was his Americaness. As Dr. L.J.F. Wijsenbeck, Director of the Municipal Museum at the Hague, wrote to Porter McCray in September 1954: 121 "I am very much i n favor of showing Ben Shahn*s work i n this country. He i s i n my opinion one of the greatest phenomena of modern art and absolutely 21 American." Standing i n front of his paintings i n 1 9 5 4 * one could almost have heard the words Shahn spoke fourteen years later, a year before his death: I t e l l you, I think I am the most American of a l l American painters. This i s a novel thing to say. It i s said without modesty. Maybe because I came to America and i t s culture and was sort of swallowing i t by the cupful.22 It was this predilection for the cultural s p i r i t s of American democracy that made Shahn i t s ideal representative. No matter how much he may have disa-greed with the unfortunate inequalities within this democracy, he s t i l l found 23 i t , i n his own words, "the most appealing idea the world has yet known." J 122 Footnotes 1Barr, " G l i Stati U n i t i , " p. 64. 2 Ibid., p. 66. 3 These i n f i l t r a t i o n s took the form of the USIA radio station Voice of America, Hollywood movies, the encouragement of Catholic anti-communism, and the attempts to purge unions i n France and Italy of communist elements. 4Such a military build-up required an even more intensive effort to convince the world of America's peaceful intentions. A part of this effort was the USIA's international "Atoms For Peace" exhibitions. See USIA, Third Review of Operations, pp. 1-3, 16. 5 One cause of the Right's decline was the settlement i n late 1954 of Italy's dispute with Yugoslavia over the cit y of Trieste, a settlement which deprived the extreme nationalists of their most reliable attack on the Christian Democrat governments(Hughes, The United States and Italy, revised ed., p. 152). Ibid., p. 203. The Christian Democrats' p o l i t i c a l machine had chosen a conservative non-party candidate but had been outvoted by a coalition of Communists, Socialists and leftHtfing Christian Democrats. 7 See quote by Piovene i n Chapter Two, page 92. Q The Communist Party had also gained increasing support from the peasant populations of the South i n the 1950s. 9 Hughes, The United States and Italy, revised ed., p. 255. 10 T, . , Ibid. 1 1 I b i d . , pp. 225-25. 12 In addition to the requests for his work mentioned i n Chapter Two on page 58, Shahn was invited to send works for inclusion i n the national painting exhibition i n Rome Prize of La Spezia i n 1958. He also continued to be the focus of articles i n Italian art magazines, such as the twenty-page piece by Carla Lonzi and Marisa Volpi i n Paragone 69 (Settembre 1955)s 38-61. Late i n the decade Mirella Bentivoglio began her book on Ben Shahn which was published i n 1963 (Ben Shahn (Rome: de Luca Editore, 1963)). 13 . The print Phoenix was included i n the Boston Public Library exhibi-tion (Arthur W. Heintzelman to Ben Shahn, 12 February 1954, Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D143). The exhibition of forty-nine paintings at the XXVIII Biennale was organized by MOMA and the Institute of Art, Chicago. One of Shahn's photographs also appeared i n MOMA's 1955 Family of Man international photo-graphy exhibition. The prints Supermarket and Alphabet of Creation appeared in the USIA exhibition. Shahn was also included i n a USIA-sponsored Art 123 Directors Club International Exhibition i n 1958 (Art Directors Club to Ben Shahn, n.d., Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D143)« 14 ^The other two members of this Fulbright jury were Lionello Venturi and the Italian painter Afro (Richard Downar, American Commission for Cultural Relations with Italy, to Ben Shahn, 1 March 1954, Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D 1 4 4 ) . His appearance on a U.S. postage stamp was referred to i n a let t e r from E.C. Gregory to Ben Shahn, 27 January 1959, Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D 1 4 5 . 15 He was also involved i n the controversy over the "Sport i n Art" ex-hibition assembled by the American Federation of Art i n 1956 for Sports  Illustrated and destined to appear at that year's Olympics i n Australia under the auspices of the USIA. While touring the States prior to i t s de-parture reactionary citizens i n Dallas demanded the removal of four paintings because of the communist a f f i l i a t i o n s of the, a r t i s t s . These four artist s were Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Leon K r o l l , William Zorach, and Ben Shahn. The exhi-bition was not sent to the Olympics (see de Hart Matthews, "Art and P o l i t i c s , " pp. 769-70). 16 USIA, Eleventh Review of Operations (1 July-31 December 1958):5-6. 17 The session was held i n camera. Shahn had also signed a petition to Congress to abolish the HUAC that was published i n the 7 January 1959 issue of the Washington Post. 18 Ben Shahn, "Statement of Ben Shahn," pp. 1-2, i n Ben Shahn Papers, Reel D148. Shahn was also one of the sponsors of an ad i n the 16 October 1959 issue of the New York Times (p. 40) c a l l i n g for an end to the Cold War and the formation of a new American foreign policy based on detente. 19 Thomson and Laves restate this question and i t s implications i n their 1963 review of the relations between culture and U.S. foreign policy: "Underlying a l l these question (regarding size, funding, etc. of Ameri-ca's cultural program abroad), and i n a sense conditioning the answers to a l l of them, are the fundamental questions: What are the over- riding objectives of United States foreign policy? Can cultural  programs contribute to their advancement? If so. how?" (Thomson and Laves. Cultural Relations, p. 137). 20 See Appendix B for a discussion of the selection of Shahn's works. 21 Quoted in MOMA, "Press Reaction," p. 17. 22 "Interview: Ben Shahn Talks With Forrest Selvig," Archives of American  Art Journal 17, no. 3 (1977):18. 2 3Shahn, "The Artist and the P o l i t i c i a n , " Art News, p. 67. 124 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY A. Books 1. General History and P o l i t i c s : Barrett, Edward W. The Truth i s Our Weapon. New York: Punk and Wagnalls, 1953. B e l l , Daniell. The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of P o l i t i c a l Ideas i n  the F i f t i e s . New York: Co l l i e r , 1961. Benson, Leonard G. National Purpose: Ideology and Ambivalence i n America. Washington, D.C: Public Affairs Press, 1963. Brinton, Crane; Christopher, John B.; and Wolff, Robert Lee. A History of  Ci v i l i z a t i o n . Volume Two: 1715 to the Present. 2nd ed, Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, i960. Burnham, James, ed. What Europe Thinks of America. New York: John Day.Co., 1953. G r i f f i t h , Robert, and Theoharis, Athan, eds. The Spectre: Original Essays on • the r Cold War and the Origins of McCarthyism. New York: New Viewpoints, 1974. Grindrod, Muriel. The Rebuilding of Italy: P o l i t i c s and Economics 1945- 1955. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1955. Harvard University. Center for International Affairs. United States For- eign Policy: Ideology and Foreign Affairs. Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office, i 9 6 0 . Horowitz, David, ed. Corporations and the Cold War. New York: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 1969. Hughes, Stuart H. The United States and Italy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953. . The United States and Italy. Revised. Cambridge!, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965. Kolko, Gabriel, and Kolko, Joyce. The Limits of Power: The World and United  States Foreign Policy, 1945-1954. New York: Harper and Row, 1972. Kolko, Gabriel. The Roots of American Foreign Policy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969. LaFeber, Walter. America, Russia, and the Cold War 1945-1975. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976. 125 Miller, Douglas T., and Nowak, Marion. The F i f t i e s ; The Way We Really Were. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1977. Rome. Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Ten Years of Italian Democracy  1946-1956. Rome: Apollon, 1957. Thomson, Charles A., and Laves, Walter H.C. Cultural Relations and U.S. Foreign Policy. Bloomington, Indiana; Indiana University Press, 1963. Tucker, Robert W. The Radical Left and American Foreign Policy. Baltimore; Johns Hopkins Press, 1971. Weeks, Robert Percy, ed. Commonwealth vs. Sacco and Vanzetti. Englewood C l i f f s * N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1958. 2 . Art: Alloway, Lawrence. The Venice Biennale 1895-1968, from salon to goldfish  bowl. Greenwich: N.Y. Graphic Society, 1968. Bazzoni, Romolo. 60 Anni della Biennale d i Venezia. Venezia: Lombroso Editore, 1962. Bentivoglio, Mirella. Ben Shahn. Rome: de Luca Editore, 1963. Egbert, Donald Drew. Socialism and American Art: In the Light of European Utopianism, Marxism, and Anarchism. Revised and expanded ed. Prince-ton: Princeton University Press, 1967. Greenberg, Clement. Art and Culture: C r i t i c a l Essays. Boston: Beacon Press, 1961. Lynes, Russell. Good Old Modern: An Intimate Portrait of the Museum of  Modern Art. New York: Atheneum, 1973. Morse, John D., ed* Ben Shahn. New York: Praeger, 1972. New York. Museum of Modern Art. American Realists and Magic Realists. Reprint ed. New York: Arno Press for the Museum of Modern Art, 1969. . 2 P i t t o r i : de Kooning, Shahn; 5 Scultori: Lachaise, Lassaw, Smith. Catalogue, 27th Venice Biennale, 19 June-17 October 1954. New York: Marchbanks Press for Museum of Modem Art, 1954. Prescott, Kenneth. The Complete Graphic Works of Ben Shahn. New York: Quandrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1973. Rodman, Selden. Portrait of the Artist as an American, Ben Shahn: A Biogra- phy With Pictures. New York: Harper & Bros., 1951. Shahn, Ben. Paragraphs On Art. New York: Spiral Press, 1952. , The Biography of a Painting. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, Fogg Art Museum, 1956. 126 Soby, James Thrall. Ben Shahn. West Drayton, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1947. . Ben Shahn: Paintings. New York: Braziller, 1963. Venice. Biennale d'Arte. La Biennale d i Venezia. 2 7 t h Biennale catalogue, 19 June-17 October, 1954. Venice: Venezia A l f i e r i , 1954. B. Journal and Newspaper Articles 1. General Art and P o l i t i c s : "Aftermath of War—A Portfolio of Paintings by Ben Shahn." Fortune 32 (December 1945) ;169-72 . Alloway, Lawrence. "Art News From London." Art News 54 (May 1955):11 . Ashton, Dore. "Avantgardia: Reflections from Rome on the avant-garde move-ments i n Italy and America during the last decade." Arts Digest 29 (15 March 1955 ) :16-17 , 54. "Ben Shahn: Painter of Protest Turns to Reflection." L i f e , 4 October 1954, pp. 96-100. Berger, John. "Renato Guttuso." Apollo„61 (March 1955) :70 . . "A Social Realist Painting at the Biennale." Burlington Magazine 94 (October 1952) :294 -97 . Collins, Brad. "Manet's 'Rue Mosnier decked with Flags' and the FlUneur Concept." Burlington Magazine 117 (November 1975) .709-14. de Hart Matthews, Jane. "Art and P o l i t i c s i n Cold War America." American  Historical Review 81 (October 1976) :762-87. Greenberg, Clement. "Art Chronicle: Our Period Style." Partisan Review 15 (November 1949):1158. Guilbaut, Serge. "Creation et Developpement d'une Avant-garde: New York 1946 -1951 . H Histoire et Critique des Arts: Les Avant-gardes (July 1978) :29 -48 . Hunter, Sam. "Two Contemporary Italians: Guttuso and de Chirico." Magazine  of Art 43 (November 1950) :266-71 . "Interview: Ben Shahn Talks With Forrest Selvig." Archives of American Art  Journal 17» ho..5 (1977) :14 -21 . Kemler, Edgar. "Will Joe Bolt the G.O.P.?" Nation. 15 May, 1954, PP. 4 1 9 -2 1 . Lasch, Christopher. "The Cultural Cold War." Nation, 11 September. 1967, pp. 198-212. 127 Lonzi, Garla, and Volpi, Marisa. "Ben Shahn." Paragone 69 (Settemhre 1955): 58- 61. McAndrew, John. "Artistas norteamericanos en l a Bienal de Barcelona." Goya 11 (1955-56):104-09. Morse, John D. "Ben Shahn: An Interview." Magazine of Art 37 (April 1944): 136-41. "Painters-Show Woeful Side of Soviet L i f e . " L i f e , 16 May, 1955, pp. 147-48. "Party-Line Painter." Time. 30 November 1953, p. 74. "A Premier Goes Skiing—Italy's Pella Quits i n the Climax of a Cr i s i s Months in the Making." L i f e . 18 January 1954, p. 38. Ragghianti, Carlo. "Lettura Aperta." Sele Arte, no. 1 (January-Pebruary 1953):42-3. Rodman, Selden. "Ben Shahn." Perspectives, USA, pilot issue (January 1952): 59-72. . "Ben Shahn: Painter of America." Perspectives, USA (Pall 1952): 87-96. Saarinen, Aline B. "USSR vs. Abstract—A Leading Soviet Cultural Organ Attacks International Moderns." New York Times, 22 August 1954» sec. II, p. 8. Salisbury, Harrison E. "Russia's Art Reflects Trends i n Russia." New York  Times Magazine, 12 September 1954, PP. 8 - 9 . Shahn, Ben. "The Artist and the Po l i t i c i a n . " Art News 52 (September 1953)* 34-5. • "L'Artista e i l politicismo." With a commentary by Carlo Ragghianti. Sele Arte, no. 9 (Novembre-Dicembre 1953):25-29. Spaeth, Eloise. "America's Cultural Responsibilities Abroad." College Art  Journal 11 (Winter 1951-52):115-20. . "Synthesis of Arts i n America: 20 Contemporaries." Hindustan Times  Art Supplement, 6 May 1953. Tagg, John. "American Power and American Painting: the Development of Van-guard Painting i n the United States Since 1945." Praxis (1976):59-79. Tyler, Parker. "Magic Realism i n American Painting." American Artist l6,no.3 (1952):40-43. U.S. Congress. House. Senator George Dondero. "Communist Art i n Government Hospitals." 8Tst Cong., 1st sess., 11 March 1949. Congressional Record 95:2317-18. 128 . Senator George Dondero. "Communist Maneuver to Control Art i n the United States." 81st Cong., 1st sess., 25 March 1949. Congres- sional Record 95:3235-54. U.S. Information Agency. Review of Operations. F i r s t (August-December 1953) . . Review of Operations, Second (January-June 1954) . . Review of Operations, Third (July-December, 1954) . . Review of Operations, Eleventh (1 July-31 December 1958). 2. Reviews of the XXVII Venice Biennale: Aguilera Cerni, Vicente. "Pintores del Nuevo Mundo en l a XXVII Bienal de Venecia." Estud. Americanos 8 (l954):319-24» Barr, Alfred H., Jr. "Gli Stati Uniti a l i a Biennale: Shahn e de Kooning, Lachaise, Lassaw e Smith." Biennale d i Venezia, no. 19-20 (Aprile-Giugno 1954) :62-67. Bratt, L.J.P. "A l a Biennale de Venise, trois points d'appui." Arts Plas- tiques, special no.,(1954):59-46. Castelfranco, G. "La XXVII Biennale." Bollettino d'Arte 39 (Octobre-Dicembre 1954) :347-59 . Clarac-Serou, Max. "28th (sic) Venice Biennale." Arts Digest 28 (August 1954) : 6-8. Cooper, D. "Reflections on the Venice Biennale." Burlington Magazine 96 (October 1954):512-22. Degand, Leon. "La Biennale de Venise." Art dMugourd'hui 5 (Septembre 1954) : 23-25. Denvir, Bernard. "Mayfair to Manhattan." Artist 48 (November 1954):35. "Five Americans for biennale." Arts Digest 28 (15 April 1954):33* Frankfurter, A. "European Speculation: modern art and Marco Polo." Art  News 53 (September 1954):18-23+. Hodin, J.P. "Venice Biennale." Contemporary Review 186 (October 1954) : 227-30. Hubbard, R.H. "Show Window of the Arts—XXVII Venice Biennale." Canadian Art 12 (Autumn 1954):14-20. Keller, H. "XXVII biennale." Werk 41 (August 1954):sup. 189-91. Kern, W. "Anmerkungen zur XXVII biennale i n Venedig." Werk 41 (August 1954) : 335*40. 129 Lenson, Michael. "Shahn i s Biennale Winner." Newark Sunday News, 12 Sep-tember, 1954, sect. I l l , p. E8. Martini, Alberto. "Ben Shahn." Paragone 5, no. 57 (Settembre 1954):61-64. Melville, R. "The Venice Biennale." The Listener 52 (29 July 1954):180. Palluchini, R. Reply to Cooper, irVenice Biennale." Burlington Magazine 97 (March 1955):85-87. Paoli, Gian Paolo. "Ben Shahn i n Cantina." II Contemporaneo, 25 Settembre 1954, P. 1. Podesta, A t t i l i o . " I t a l i a n i e Stranieri a l l XXVII Biennale." Emporium 120 ( l 9 5 4 ) : 1 1 3 - 2 9 . Ponti, Lisa L i c i t r a . "Ben Shahn a Venezia." Bomus, no. 298 (Settembre 1954): 36-37. . "Pittura a l i a Biennale." Domus. no. 298 (Settembre 1954):28-35. Taubes, P. "What i s the World Painting Today?" American Artist 19 (February 1955):34+. "XXVIIa Biennale di Venezia." Sele Arte 12 (Maggio-Giugho 1954):6-62. "Under the four winds." Time. 28 June 1954, pp. 74-77. V a l l i e r , Dora. "La XXVIIe Biennale de Venise." Cahiers d'Art 29. ho. 1 (1954):109-15. C. Unpublished Papers and Microfilms Carlisle, John Charles. "A Biographical Study of How the Artist Became a Humanitarian Activist: Ben Shahn 1938-to 1946." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1972. Guilbaut, Serge. "Creation et Developpment d'une Avant-Garde Americaine: Bataille Ideologique Entre Paris et N.Y. 1945-1951 ou Comment New York Kidnappa l a Notion de Modernism Hors des Mains Parisiennes." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 197?. New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Summary of European Press Reaction to the Exhibition 'Two Painters and Three Sculptors From the United States', Shown at the XXVII Biennale, Venice, June 19-0ctober 17, 1954." New York, 1 October 1956. (Mimeographed.) . "'Two Painters and Three Sculptors From the United States' Shown at the XXVII Biennale, Venice, June 19-0ctober 17, 1954." New York, 1 October 1956. (Mimeographed.) Pohl, Frances. "The 'Campaign of Truth' i n American Art." Paper presented at; the Second Annual Mark Goodson Symposium on American Art, Whitney 130 Museum of American Art, New York, 23 April 1979. Washington, D.C. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institute. Ben Shahn Papers. (Microfilms.) 131 APPENDIX A Text of James T. Soby's essay on Ben Shahn and Ben Shahn's statement (in Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2 P i t t o r i : de Kooning. Shahn; 5  Scultori; Lachaise. Lassaw, Smith, catalogue for the XXVII Vencie Biennale, 1 9 5 4 , American exhibition, n.p.) James T. Soby: "I t i s appropriate that Ben Shahn's art should now be exhibited i n Italy. He has f e l t for that country a profound affection and respect ever since the day i n childhood when, newly arrived i n America from his native Russia, he went with his father to a barbershop where the men were discussing the recent eruption of Mount Etna. Shahn could not understand why the inhabitants of the Etna region were moving back to i t promptly, when at any moment the volcano might begin to rumble again. An Italian barber gave him an explana-tion he has never forgotten: "When you have planted so much i n one place, you have to go back to i t . " Later, i n the mid -1920's, Shahn traveled i n Italy, fascinated by i t s superb visual heritage i n the arts and loving the dignity and grace of the people. During the early 1 9 4 0 ' s , his grief over the disasters of war tended to focus on Italy, and he painted a number of p i c -tures i n which Italian children, unquenchably imaginative, explore the new ruins of ancient buildings. "Like most a r t i s t s , " he wrote recently, "I look upon Italy as the home place'." Growing up i n the poorer sections of Brooklyn, New York, Shahn learned to draw by making sidewalk sketches of figures i n the world of sports who were the idols of his c r i t i c a l and insistent audience of local toughs. His mature career began around 1 9 3 0 with the realization that art-for-its-own-sake i n -terested him less than narrative commentary on the l i f e and social issues of his time. He then painted a series of pictures depicting episodes i n the t r i a l of Sacco and Vanzetti (significantly, both Italian-Americans) and i n the t r i a l of the labor leader, Tom Mooney. His sympathies always have been with the oppressed, though he has vigorously repudiated the cure for their i l l s proposed by Communism. He thinks of art as being ideally a public service, and he has used his great talents i n painting murals for Federal buildings and designing posters for various causes in which he has believed. The paradox of this public-social activity i s that Shahn has remained at the same time one of the most private and individual of American easel painters. His extraordinary lyricism of vision, his p i c t o r i a l invention, his g i f t s as draftsman and colorist—these have resulted i n a host of pictures which have been bought avidly for American collections, public and private, from one coast to the other. The respect we i n this country feel for him has already begun to extend abroad. It i s our hope that i t w i l l now be shared i n Italy." 1 3 2 Ben Shahn: "So much that we l i v e with and experience today has become devoid of person-a l i t y . Objects that we handle and use are mass produced, our clothing, mass designed . . . . But art i s s t i l l the citadel of the individual. It i s one of the few remaining outposts of free speech—unprocessed speech. The personal touch of the artist's hand remains ineradicably upon his canvas. Whatever he says or feels i s communicated directly and without modification to those who look at his work. "But I think that artists ought to recognize this, that there i s no moral reason why art ought to go on i f i t has nothing further to express . . . . Art i s important only i f i t essays to be important . . . . Society needs more than anything else to be reminded that man i s , i n himself, ultimate value. It needs to be reminded that neither the pressure of events nor the exigencies of diplomacy can warrant the f i a l debasement of man . . . . Art, because i t i s the innate expression of man, speaks also i n f i n a l values, tends to re-affirm the individual. Art i s neither use, nor appointed task; but given human compulsion, some intellectual stature and great competence, i t can per-haps bring man back into focus as being of supreme importance." 133 APPENDIX B List of Paintings, Drawings. Prints, and Posters by Ben Shahn at the XXVII  Venice Biennale Paintings: Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco. 1932. Two Witnesses (Tom Mooney Series), 1932. Vacant Lot. 1939. Handball. 1939. "Pretty G i r l Milking the Cow". 1940. Peter and the Wolf. 1943. Italian Landscape. 1943-44. The Red Stairway, 1944. Cherubs and Children, 1944. Four Piece Orchestra, 1944. Pacific Landscape. 1945. The Blind Accordion Player, 1945. Liberation, 1945* Father and Child. 1946. Spring, 1947. The V i o l i n Player. 1947. Miners' Wives, 1948, Sound i n the Mulberry Trees. 1948, S t i l l Music. 1948, Nocturne, 1949. Summertime, 1949• Convention, 1949. Composition with Clarinet and Tin Horn. 1951. City of Dreadful Night. 1951. Anger. 1952. Beatitudes. 1952. Second Allegory, 1952. Age of Anxiety, 1953. 134 Homeric Struggle, 1953, G i r l Jumping Rope, 1943, Drawings: Susannah and the Elders, 1947, Dancers, 1947, Bicycle Act, 1950. Man Picking Wheat, 1950. Clarinets. 1951. The Alphabet. 1954. Prints: Where There i s ' a Book, There i s not a Sword, 1950. Musical Chairs, 1951. Phoenix, 1952. Triple Dip. 1952. Patterson, New Jersey. I. 1953» Patterson. New Jersey. II. 1955. Posters: This Is Nazi Brutality. 1942. For F u l l Employment After the War—Register Vote. 1944. We French Workers Warn You. 1942. Break Reactions Grip—Register Vote. 1946 We Demand the National Textiles Act. 1935. We Want Peace—Register Vote, 1946. For A l l These Rights We've Just Begun to Fight. 1946. Warning—Inflation Means Depression—Register Vote. 1946. Shahn's paintings at the Biennale appear to have been chosen to i l l u s -trate two major themes: play/leisure time and disaster/injustice. It has been shown i n the text of this paper how certain of the works i n the l a t t e r cate-gory—Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco. Two Witnesses. Italian Landscape. The Red Stairway, Pacific Landscape, Liberation—related specifically to Italian concerns i n 1954. A large number of them also contributed to the creation of the image of Shahn as a "American" painter with their settings 135 costumes—Vacant Lot, Handball, Pretty G i r l Milking a Cow, Blind Accordian  Player, Summertime, Sound i n the Mulberry Trees. The combination of the two themes of play/leisure and disaster/injustice create that general sense of balance so important to Shahn and American l i b e r -alism. America appears, through Shahn's paintings and drawings, as both a country of relaxation and good times and a country concerned with injustice and inequality. While his paintings present these concerns in an abstract passive sense, his posters present them in a more active revolutionary way. But even these posters are connected with the l i b e r a l American administration through the two elections for which they were created. Cooke, i n his report to MOMA, noted that "none of the works painted after 1949 has reveived the approval of the Italian public, perhaps because the themes are more esoterically American, or perhaps because the passionate conviction of the earlier paintings i s lacking. City of the Dreadful Night, Convention, Age of Anxiety are passed by with a shrug" (p. 5 ) « T h e lack of explicit Italian, as well as American, subject matter i n Shahn's later paintings would certainly have contributed to their lesser popularity. They also did not contain the less explicit references to religion, recon-struction, family, etc. that were present i n such paintings as Liberation and The Red Stairway. The lack of passionate conviction i n Shahn's paintings of the early 1950s was also noted by Life magazine i n an a r t i c l e entitled "Ben Shahn: Painter of Protest Turns to Reflection" (4 October 1954, PP. 96-100). 


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