Emperor's clothes — if the photograph
should turn out to be as spurious as
the Emperor's garments. We cannot
find evidence that any modern artist
had anv thing to do with the frame and
blank canvas she reproduces.
The article's objection to distortion
leaves the leader with the impression
that distortion is a device invented by
modem artists. This is, of course, not
true. Artists of all times have used distortion to express their ideas or to
create balance of color, line and space.
Many of the paintings and sculptures
of the Middle Ages anel the baroque
period would have to be disqualified
as works of art if an exact rendering
of nature were to be considered important in judging all phases of art.
Such a basis of judgment would, of
course, also disqualify most of the
arts of the great civilizations Outside
DISTORTION NOT THE INVENTION
OF MODERN ART
To accuse modern artists of dishonesty because they employ distortion or
do not paint in a representational stv It-
is hast) judgment to say the least. The
literature of the beginning of modern
art is so rich and accessible that it is
easy for anyone interested to trace in
it the honest fight for individual expression and the sincerity of those who
led and continued the movement.
There are, and always were, artists
who adopt a style- after it has become
fashionable or remunerative, but to
decry an entire art movement because
it attracts some opportunistic gatecrashers is to condemn any successful
movement. Leaders of modern art
have suffered public contempt and
many of them, such as Matisse and
Picasso, have live-el for years in poverty rather than adopt a more conservative style which would have greatly
helped their sales.
Miss Pels' second accusation, that
modern art is a tool of communism
used to attack the foundations of
democratic society and religion, is a
very serious one and needs to be considered in the light of evidence.
Ever since the Communist party
leadership has concerned itself seriously with art, modern art has been
officially declared to be anathema to
Communist society. The Communist
leadership used terms like degenerate,
capitalistic, perverted, petit-bourgeois. Modern painting was, and still is,
banned in Russia ami her satellites as
can easily be established by glancing
at the art magazines of those countries
and by reading the statements mack-
Distortion was used by old masters as a means
of expressing deep religious emotion, as can be
seen in these three heads ot Christ on the Cross
taken from great crucifixions of the twelfth,
thirteenth, and sixteenth centuries.
about art by Communist officials. The
attacks on modern art by Communist
spokesmen, both inside and outside
the Soviet Union, have been remark
ably consistent and have been echoed
again and again by party organs behind the Iron Curtain and in other
countries, including the United States.
For example, the official magazine
Voks, published for Soviet cultural
propaganda abroad, calls Picasso's
pictures "morbid, . . . revolting . . . an
esthetic apology for capitalism." Socialist Realism is the official name for
the kind eif art the Communists approve. Communist art must be Socialist in subject and very realistic in
style. The Communist attitude towards modern art was summed up in
I'rtnda, the official newspaper of the
Communist party, USSR:
It cannot he- tolerated that side by side
with Socialist Realism we- still have a co-
eiirre-nt represented hy the Worshippers "I
bourgeois decadent art who regard as their
spiritual teachers Picasso anel Matisse,
cubists and artists of the formalist school.
And in this country, a Communist-
front publication, Masses and Main
Today an increasing number of artists
and intellectuals moved not only hy the
strong currents coming from the realistic
art of the Soviet Union and the people*
democracies, hut by their own struggle*
against fascism, are- looking critically d
this false and empty "modernism," break*
ing the manacles it had fastened upon
their power to investigate and understand
the real world about them.
The distinguished American paintf-
Ben Shahn, who himself has bee»
accused of Communist sympathy
offers epiite another opinion or Sovm
art. He says:
Neither the formulae of Commissars nor
inducements of honor, nor pretention'
awards have yet succeeded in breathinJJ
life into Soviet art. Its deadly processto*!
of overdrawn generals and over-idealrzj*
proletarians bears sharp testimony to tn(.
tart that tlie-re- is no conviction in artist*
liearts and that the search for truth n*
A recent dispatch from Mosco*
indicating that paintings by Fie'11'
Impressionists in tbe Soviet ceil'1'1
tions are now made accessible to *"
public in a temporary exhibitioi
not indicate any substantial chai
the official party line. It does pert*
the Russian public to see some-
forerunners of modern art, who \
Western standards are now cons''
ered classics, but it carefully quali^
"e 111,- ii
°n anel 1
I style v
hep • .
this permission by stating that theL
tines are shown for their hist°^
value. There is, unfortunately, n0A
dence that this step indie ales a i'
nition of freedom for the eon'1''1
rary artist in Russia. pi
The implications in Mb* J
article that the Communist lcach'1^
while banning modern art in &° ft
nist countries, is encouraging it v~jk
countries as a means of subv1 I
lite socictv arc also entire'? 1
grounded. When Miss Pels asser*^
art is regarded by Communists J
eapon in their light for world l
Facts Forum News, /'""'
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