Advancing American Art

Flower Head

William Baziotes- Flower Head. One of the paintings exhibited in Advancing American Art.

In the summer of 1946 the U.S government initiated a program to demonstrate the nation’s artistic abilities. The State Department purchased 79 oil paintings by leading contemporary American artists to showcase in exhibitions abroad. One State Department official explained why they found this initiative important: “The United States has demonstrated its superb ability to manufacture tanks, airplanes, guns, and all the other implements of war…The United States must demonstrate that it also has an interest in and a vigorous movement in the fields of art, music, and allied fields.”

There was also an ulterior motive to Advancing American Art. The end of WWII marked the beginning of the Cold War. This exhibit was sent abroad to combat communism. Contemporary American art was seen as a tool in the Cold War because it was the visual representation of the freedom of American artists.

The paintings were divided into two exhibits with one going to Europe and the other to Latin America. Each received great acclaim abroad. The Advancing American Art exhibit was so successful in Prague that the Soviet Union staged its own counter exhibit, but locals overwhelmingly favored the American art.

A Reluctant Patron
Advancing American Art