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Art history too often ignores prints. Now the British Museum has made a persuasive case for their importance in 20th-century American culture

By Ben Lewis   September 2008

The art history of the early 20th century is usually written as the story of a breakthrough for painters and sculptors, who, operating on their own or in small groups, pursued new strategies in colour and form. There were Matisse’s expanses of uninflected hues, Picasso’s primitive masks and rough planes, Brancusi’s marble orbs and brass ellipses, Kandinsky’s music of colours. Yet, as “The American Scene,” the British Museum’s absorbing exhibition of American prints from the first half of the last century, shows, the 20th century was also a golden age—and a revolutionary one—for the medium of the artist’s print: for…

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