The New Beauty


WALKOWITZ is one of the Titans of the New Beauty. Look at these figures. They are the modern Vulcans, Thors, and Wodins—very real ones. The hand that drew them is anarchistic, and the imagination that dreamed them is an imagination into which has filtered gleams—mad, sinister, diabolistic gleams—of the New Beauty.

And who are the disciples of the New Beauty? Who are the Raphaels of the Ugly—they who, like Walkowitz, come with a sound of fury and the breath of hurricane into the Dresden-china world of the Plush Prettiness that we used to imagine was Art?

Who are they? They are the fathers of the American Renaissance—crude, bizarre, satanic, esoteric, barbaric.

Every great movement in history begins with a crime. Progress is conditioned on a perpetual transgression. Change is founded on death.

The New Beauty is the assassin of the Past. Futurism and Cubism are great because they are dynamic. They may be nothing in themselves, but they are the avant-courier of the future Art, and Art is the humor of reality.

The New Beauty glorifies Life. It is a reaction against the Candy Kids of an anemic intellectually. Look at Walkowitz’s figures. They are out of the slime, out of the mud. They represent the muscled will, glorifying the Brute always crying in us for victims.

There is something diabolistic in whatever glorifies matter and motion. Go through a gallery where there are exhibited examples of the New Beauty, whether they are Rodins, Matisses, Picabias, or Walkowitzes. You will hear, if you know how to listen, the Chant of the Earth. There is a soliloquy in every line of these monstrous figures.

Out of the earth, out of the sun, they seek to pivot the universe on the five senses.

The New Man, the New Beauty, the New Urge, seems to say: “What do I care for your heavens and hells and your sickly ideals and Beyond-the-Tomb nonsense! I am here in the light, in the concrete, in the clay of my body, and my brain is a plan of campaign for a march on the goods of this world. Focus your eyes on me from now on. One world at a time. I am here for war, and I’ll plug up your intellectual peace-palaces with my victims.”

The New Beauty is born of a sort of inverted idealism—that idealism which is the pickpocket of our lives.

The spirit of the New Beauty follows in the wake of labor, aeroplanes, automobiles, bursting steam-pipes, dreadnaughts, subways, and music-halls. It is democratic. The engineer swinging along at ninety miles an hour is right in the very dugs of the New Beauty. The miner who has just been propelled through a wall of coal by the thoughtless act of another miner goes into Eternity aureoled by the New Beauty. It is the life-and-death gestures that matter.

Have Walkowitz’s figures any meaning? No. There is [11] too much great art in them for that. To mean something is to be moral, and to be moral is to be ancient and mediocre.

The New Beauty patrols battlefields and has elbowed the old classic figure of Death—as banal and stupid as the figure of Time on the old almanacs—off of the Futurist canvases. Wherever there is noise, motion, “something doing,” there you will find the New Beauty.

Walt Whitman was really the discoverer and progenitor of this New Beauty, and he would have reveled in Walkowitz’s figures. It was he who chanted the beauty of the ugly, and sang the song of the smoke-stack and showed us the mystery of a fire-plug.

The New Beauty has little to do with Cubism. Cubism is the insanity of art. It is the aspiration of a pin-head to be a brain. Can you eternize your fountain-pen and put the glamor of the Unseen on your nightshirt, and paint an oyster-shell so that it will look like the nominative case? If you can, you are a Cubist. If you cannot, thank God, for you are still sane. For there are more things in the philosophy of Cubism than were ever dreamed of in heaven and earth.

But Walkowitz has seen right into the earth and man, and he is great because he has no philosophy. He reports himself.


Source: Puck, March 28, 1914, Vol. LXXV No. 1934, p. 10-11