Armory Show contained about sixteen hundred pieces of sculpture, paintings,
drawings, and prints; it included a large American selection that comprised
three-quarters of the exhibition. Remarkably, the entire exhibition is
said to have been hung in only two days, beginning on February 13. The
process was facilitated by Davies preparing a watercolor sketch of every
room. By the time of the press preview on Sunday February 16, the Armory
had been decorated with pine tress, yellow cloth streamers forming a canopy
from the ceiling, and garlands of greenery hanging from the partitions
and along the walls. The poster for the Armory Show depicts the pine-tree
flag of the American Revolution proclaiming liberation from the art of
the past (Schapiro 135).
The catalogue of the Armory Show, which lists about 1,100 works by over 300 exhibitors, of whom more than 100 were Europeans, is incomplete. Many works added in the course of the exhibition were not catalogued, and groups of drawings and prints by the same artist were listed as single works. Some estimate that the show comprised altogether about 1,600 objects.
Nonetheless, despite the actual number of exhibits, the Armory Show had direct impact on American art, and a few artists having been exposed directly or indirectly radically altered their styles, choosing to work more abstractly. For example, European modernism inspired many American artists to reconsider form experiment with pattern, and incorporate rhythm into their own creative process. The “slashing brush strokes” that once proved “daring” now proved not enough (Rose 62). Although many remained true to artistic realism, their realism transformed into more conceptual art.
The revolution of modern art was fought first by certain artists in the trenches. Later, the war was won by converted and enlightened patrons of art. As an opening battle, the Armory Show forged a courageous new path. The established values in the art world were shaken; purchases of Impressionist, Post Impressionist, and twentieth-century European art increased astoundingly after 1913; and the market for the modern art expanded rapidly (Hunter and Jacobus, Modern 106).
It is hard to understand today how difficult exhibition conditions were for modern artists in the early 1900s. One cannot help but wonder if Robert Henri was referring to the Armory Show when he said:
One measure of the significance of the Armory Show is reflected in the following comment: “The wider recognition accorded modernism, and its relative success after the Armory Show, are due in great part to the efforts of a few early patrons, collectors, critics, and dealers in whose activities Americans may take a justifiable pride” (Hunter and Jacobus Modern 104) The Armory Show did sell and promote new art, but more importantly it challenged and changed both the Academic and intellectual definition and attitude toward art and brought cultured America face to face with the question of what makes art Art. The Armory show was a moment allowing America to see beyond the usual. In the words of Robert Henri,
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