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American Modernists in Modern London

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Abstract

The major modernists, as is well known, were frequently exiles and émigrés who formed communities of shared artistic practice in nonnative metropolitan centres (Williams, 1992: 92). American artists and writers played an important part in this, but often — in what for many years has counted as the modernist mainstream — in the settings of European rather than American cities. New York, the city of twentieth century modernization, was a place Henry James, Whistler and following them, Pound and Eliot, were keen to leave. We see early in the century, therefore, a disjunction between an emerging modernist aesthetic and urban modernity (Brooker and Perril 2001). Over a generation or more, American artists were motivated by a sense of the antagonism between artistic culture and advancing modernization to shift to Europe, to London and in the 1920s especially to Paris, because here, as they saw it, was the home of a redeeming civilization.

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