Unblinking Eye

Modernism:  “The philosophy and practice of modern art; especially a self-conscious and deliberate break with the past and a search for new forms of expression in any of the arts.”                                                                                                                  --Webster

Rimbaud, by Graham RobbRimbaud, A Biography

by Graham Robb

Rimbaud possessed a savage, some would say demonic, genius.  He singlehandedly deconstructed Romanticism and transformed literature before he was 21.  I have never read a better book about him. 

I’ve long been fascinated with how the world changed in the 20th century.  Both my parents knew the time before electricity came to their rural homes, but more important than the technological changes in the 20th century were the changes in perception and consciousness exemplified in literature, art, photography, philosophy, and science.  The books on this page all explore some aspect of the history of modernism, the avant-garde, & the new modes of perception and expression that evolved in this period.
                                        --Ed Buffaloe

The Banquet Years, by Roger ShattuckThe Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I

Alfred Jarry - Henri Rousseau
Eric Satie - Guillaume Apollinaire

by Roger Shattuck

“Jarry had forced his way into the group and established himself close to the center of things.  He helped clarify my underlying subject: how the fluid state known as bohemia, a cultural underground smacking of failure and fraud, crystalized for a few decades into a self-conscious avant-garde that carried the arts into a period of astonishingly varied renewal and accomplishment...”  --From the Preface to the Third Edition.


Alfred Stieglitz: Photographs and WritingsAlfred Stieglitz:
Photographs & Writings

Stieglitz was at the nexus of all the changes that took place in art and photography.  While he didn’t initiate all the changes himself, he consciously and selflessly promoted them.

Early Bloomsbury and Its Intimate WorldOn or About December 1910:
Early Bloomsbury
and Its Intimate World

by Peter Stansky

“Brings together the many strands of personal, literary, social, and artistic history that were to form the core of the modernist movement.”

G. E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles, by Paul Levy

G.E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles

Some of the most influential men of the 20th century
were members of the Cambridge Apostles.

“When Beatrice Webb said to Leonard Woolf that though she knew most of the distinguished men of her time, she had never met a great man, Woolf replied that he supposed Mrs Webb did not know G.E. Moore. ‘George Moore’, Woolf commented in his autobiography, ‘was a great man, the only great man whom I haver met or known in the world of ordinary, real life.’”
                                                              --Paul Levy

The Lost Lunar Baedeker, by Mina Loy, edited by Roger L. Conover

Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy, by Carolyn Burke

Becoming Modern:
The Life of Mina Loy

by Carolyn Burke

Poet, artist, “cartographer of the imagination”, Mina Loy speaks directly to us.  You would never know she was born in 1882.

4 Dada Suicides, Arthur Cravan, Jacques Rigaut, Julien Torma, Jacques Vache Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein Intimate Memories, by Mabel Dodge Lujan Utopian Vistas, by Lois Palkin Rudnick

An American Lens, by Jay BochnerAn American Lens:
Scenes from Alfred Stieglitz’s New York Secession

by Jay Bochner

Chapters:  1. The Coming Storm of Modernism (1893).  2. Conservation Frames (1910).  3. Before the Armory (1913). 4. Outside the Armory (1912-1913). 
5. Mechanics of the New York Secession (1915).  6. Days in April, Sweet and Cruel (1917); Part I, Mina Loy, W.C. Williams, and Arthur Cravan; Part II, War, Iconoclasm and women’s work at the Independents’ Show, Pre-Dada, Duchamp .  7. The Serial Portrait (1917-1935).  8. Down from the Clouds (1929-1935).  9. Conclusion: The Secession’s Unyielding Father.


“One last important aspect of ... modernism.  Neither Crane nor Stieglitz are rejecting modernity, but both read very well the capabilities and meanings of changed technologies--newspaper and camera, in their cases--infusing these rapidly debased mediums with the force of their sensitivity to pry loose an authenticity not yet bought and paid for.  Their fragments are in a way pirated; if the consumer was willing to let Eastman hijack his personal experience, Stieglitz, for one, would take some back, with a better negative, a better lens, and greater virtuosity in the darkroom.  It is the quality of his image that is a sanctuary, and that sanctuary is not from modernity, which has after all produced the medium he is using and perfecting.  Crane for his part, is laying the groundwork for a prose initiated by the popular press but rendered in his hands capable of undercutting stock response.  Both are trying to keep democratization free of a cheapening of means in mass production.”  --Ja Bochner, in Chapter 1.

High Art:  Charles Baudelaire and the Oritins of Modernist Painting Picasso - 200 Masterpieces Duchamp

Steichen: A Biography, by Penelope NivenSteichen: A Biography

by Penelope Niven

The true genius who brought modern art to America and was hailed as the first great photographic artist.

The Pound Era, by Hugh Kenner


The Pound Era

by Hugh Kenner

Reading The Pound Era is an aesthetic experience akin to reading poetry or looking at great art.

After the Photo-Secession, by Christian A. PetersonAfter the Photo-Secession:
American Pictorial Photography, 1910-1955

by Christian A. Peterson

Without Stopping: An Autobiography, by Paul BowlesWithout Stopping:
An Autobiography

by Paul Bowles

Bowles led a fascinating life and he knew a lot of people, including Gertrude Stein, W.H. Auden, Djuna Barnes, Cecil Beaton, William Burroughs, Truman Capote, e.e. cummings, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Buckminster Fuller, Timothy Leary, Somerset Maughm, Yehudi Menuin, Jackson Pollack, and Tennessee Williams.

Schoenberg and Words: The Modernist Years, by C. CrossSchoenberg and Words:
The Modernist Years

by C. Cross

Schoenberg and Words disentangles significant aspects of the composer's complex relationship to fin-de-siecle modernism, especially in its Viennese variety. The eleven new essays examine the texts and contexts of works Schoenberg composed from the mid-1890s through 1916 and his writings on theoretical, aesthetic, and ethical issues.

Pictorialism into Modernism: The Clarence H. White School of Photography, by Marianne Fulton

Georgia o'Keeffe, A Life, by Roxana Robinson


Georgia O’Keeffe,
A Life

by Roxana Robinson

Ulysses, by James Joyce


by James Joyce

Widely believed to be the greatest novel of the 20th century.

Modernism: A Guide to Europena Literature, 1890-1930, edited by Malcom Bradbury and James McFarlane

A Guide to European Literature, 1890-1930

edited by Malcom Bradbury and James McFarlane

Literary Modernism and Photography, edited by Paul HansomLiterary Modernism and Photography

ed. by Paul Hansom

The developments in narrative experimentation that marked the modernist period in Europe and the United States provide an interesting crossroads with the development of visual representation during the same time. In this collection of 14 original essays, scholars from a variety of disciplines explore the ways in which the photograph became a vital emblem of the transformative processes of modernism, offering a new aesthetic and psychological model for the new zeitgeist.

Picturing Modernism: Moholy-Nagy and Photography in Weimar Germany, by Eleanor HeightPicturing Modernism: Moholy-Nagy and Photography in Weimar Germany

by Eleanor Height

Eleanor Hight rejects the traditional approach to modernist photography in which Moholy is seen as merely applying formalist means to his subject matter. Instead, her penetrating study focuses on his intensive program to develop a visual language, which he called the "New Vision," to explore and image the modern world. She examines such issues as the relationship between his theory and Russian formalist criticism, the impact of contemporary physics on his use of light in abstract photography, the new concepts of architectural space that informed his photographs of buildings, and his visual scrutiny of modern urban society.

Modernist Women and Visual Cultures, by Maggie HummModernist Women and Visual Cultures:
Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Photography and Cinema

by Maggie Humm

This volume presents an original study of the visual and literary aesthetics of influential modernist women writers, in particular Virginia Woolf, HD (Hilda Doolittle), and Dorothy Richardson. Maggie Humm focuses on the neglected (often intimate) domestic photographs of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell; on Woolf's essay "The Cinema" in the context of cinema journalism by other modernists; and on the influence of photography on Woolf's Three Guineas, her short visual fictions (particularly "Portraits"), and her modernist essays. Humm examines how modernist women explore a freer range of aesthetics than their male counterparts by looking at not only what has been called women's work at the margins of modernity, but also at what might be called the even more marginalized material within those boundaries-photo albums and image-texts.

More than one thousand of Virginia Woolf's uncatalogued photographs, and a similar number of Vanessa Bell's, have been sitting in archives scarcely touched until now. Modernist Women and Visual Cultures makes many of these photographs available for the first time. Both the photographs and this fresh analysis will prove fascinating to anyone interested in the many cultures of modernism.

Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries, by Sarah Greenough et al.

Modern Art and America:
Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries

by Sarah Greenough et al.


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