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Masterpieces and Markets: Why the Most Famous Modern Paintings Are Not by American Artists


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  • David W. Galenson
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    A survey of the illustrations in art history textbooks reveals that the most important modern American painters, including Pollock, Johns, and Warhol, failed to produce individual paintings as famous as the masterpieces of a number of major French artists, such as Picasso, Manet, and Seurat. Analysis of the textbooks reveals that art historians do not consider the American artists to be less important than their French predecessors, or judge the Americans' innovations to be less important. The absence of American masterpieces instead appears to be a consequence of market conditions, as changes over time in the primary methods of showing and selling fine art reduced the incentive for artists to produce important individual works.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8549.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2001
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    Publication status: published as Galenson, David W. “Masterpieces and Markets: Why the Most Famous Modern Paintings Are Not by American Artists." Historical Methods 35, 2 (Spring 2002): 68-70.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8549

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