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[Detail] Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald by Carl Van Vechten

Traditionalism and Americana

The inter-war decades also saw a simultaneous revival of traditionalism, expressed in nostalgia for a past quickly being eclipsed by the new technologies and values of modern America. While modernists were fleeing America for a more soulful Europe, traditionalists were identifying and embracing the "strictly American" in historical landmarks, regional traditions, vernacular architecture, and folk art. Students can view Van Vechten's photographs listed in the Subject Index under headings from Antiques, Architectural elements, Barns, Fences, and Fountains, to Piers and Wharves, Windmills, Yard ornaments, and United States, and determine whether they reflect this modern incarnation of traditionalism.

  • What do these images have in common?
  • What do they suggest about Van Vechten's interests?
  • How do they affect the way you view the portraits in this collection? What do the portraits have in common with these other pictures?