The best summer shows are light and refreshing while still having the power to transport you from your surroundings. Since no era was as intoxicating as the Roaring 1920s, when the tight-laced seams of Victorianism were ripped open, then it follows that "Youth and Beauty" may be the perfect summer exhibition.
The glamor, the debauchery and the turmoil are as flashy today as ever. The rare exhibition combines photographs and paintings depicting 1920s life beside the idealization of life, and features more than 130 works by artists including Ansel Adams, Thomas Hart Benton, Walker Evans, Edward Hopper, Isamu Noguchi, Georgia O’Keeffe and Grant Wood. A majority of the works are painted with resounding clarity and focus, as if attempting to create structure in a time of raucous upheaval. Sculptural forms, thick lines and intense contrast between light and shadow punctuate the pieces, as if the artists were attempting to translate moral ambiguity into pictorial clarity.
The idealization of the Machine Age is apparent in the works on view. Lewis Hine's "Power House Mechanic" shows the contrasting but equally majestic forms of man and machine at work. Here, American masculinity is at its ripest yet the worker still bows before the strange, inhuman beauty of the industrial landscape. In turn, Charles Demuth's "My Egypt" transforms a Pennsylvania landscape into an exotic idol, employing bold perspective and harsh, almost supernatural lighting. Egypt, popular due to the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, also embodies the 1920s mantra of eternal youth and beauty.
Of course, the exhibition also contains its fair share of flapper fashions. In photographs and paintings, you will get your fix of what are sure to be this fall's biggest trends. Yet what the exhibition shows overall is that flapper style is not just about short skirts and shorter bobs; the style is in the ladies' gaze -- bold, rebellious, a little jaded. As we await "The Great Gatsby" and its flashy 3D movie premiere, see how they really lived and dreamed in the exhibition below.
"Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties" will show at The Cleveland Museum Of Art until September 16.
Paul Cadmus, 1928. Luigi Lucioni (American, 1900-1988). Oil on canvas; 40.6 x 30.8 cm (16 x 12 1/8 in.). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund.
Gloria Swanson, about 1925. Nickolas Muray (American, 1892-1965). Gelatin silver print; 32.4 x 23.8 cm (12 3/4 x 9 3/8 in.). George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, New York, Gift of Mrs. Nickolas Muray. Image © Estate of Nickolas Muray.
Black Prophet, 1925. Winold Reiss (American, 1886-1953). Pastel on Whatman board; 76.2 x 55.9 cm (30 x 22 in.). Private collection. Image © The Reiss Trust.
Power House Mechanic, 1920-21. Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940). Gelatin silver print; 34.9 x 24.8 cm (13 3/4 x 9 3/4 in.). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Walter and Naomi Rosenblum.
Aeroplane, 1928. Elsie Driggs (American, 1898-1992). Oil on canvas, 111.8 x 96.5 cm (44 x 38 in.). The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase with funds provided by the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund. Image © Merriman Gatch Edward.
Martinique Woman, 1928. Malvina Hoffman (American, 1885-1966). Black metamorphic stone; 55.9 x 36.2 x 28.7 cm (22 x 14 1/4 x 14 1/4 in.). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund.
Lighthouse Hill, 1927. Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967). Oil on canvas; 73.8 x 102.2 cm (29 1/16 x 40 1/4 in.). Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Purnell 1958.9. Image © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by the Whitney Museum of American Art.
My Egypt, 1927. Charles Demuth (American, 1883-1935). Oil and graphite pencil on fiberboard; 89.5 x 74.3 cm (35 1/4 x 29 1/4 in.). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Purchased with funds from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Photograph by Steven Sloman.
Church Street El, 1920. Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965). Oil on canvas; 41 x 48.6 cm (16 1/8 x 19 1/8 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1977.43. Image © The Cleveland Museum of Art.
Self-Portrait with Rita, 1922. Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1899-1975). Oil on canvas; 124.5 x 100 cm. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jack H. Mooney. Photo: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / Art Resource, NY.