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Chapter Eight. “A Serious Art and Literature of Our Own”: Exploring Theodore Roosevelt's Art World

Stephen L. Levine

Subject History, Literature
Art » Art History
Classical Languages » Ancient Greek

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

People Roosevelt, Theodore

Key-Topics arts and architecture, authority, city

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331400.2011.00010.x


On the morning of March 4, 1913, the same day that his political rival Woodrow Wilson took the oath of office, Theodore Roosevelt made his way through the International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as the Armory Show. TR wanted to see for himself the works of Duchamp, Matisse, and other European modernists that seemed to be generating a nationwide cause célèbre . An entourage of artists, including Arthur Davies, the president of the association that organized the exhibit, accompanied TR as he meandered through the various rooms to view the roughly 1,300 paintings and sculptures. During the tour, TR complimented Davies on one of his sculptures. Davies, perhaps capitalizing on the opportunity to convince a skeptical TR of modernism's artistic credibility, stated that his work was “all built up geometrically, Mr. President, just full of pentagons and triangles on the inside.” TR responded, “and I dare say the Venus De Milo has a skeleton on the inside, and that's the right place to keep it.” TR's subsequent critique of the Armory Show, titled “A Layman's View of An Art Exhibition” (1913b) , is equally sardonic. However, when contextualized with his written and spoken statements on art, as well as his involvement in the artistic and literary world before, during, and after his presidency, it becomes clear that TR not only thought carefully about European modernism, but also ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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