This essay explores Kruse’s use of humor in his art criticism and self-representation, considers how and why both aspects of his work relate to America’s enthusiasm for caricature during the interwar years, and examines how an artist adept with mass media and speaking to broad audiences engaged caricature and publicity to combat his fraught status in the art world.
During the 1910s, amateur art was inflected with aesthetic and political radicalism and yet was also deeply American; at the same time, it challenged the genteel tradition of the nineteenth century and redefined a national spirit in the arts while remaining on the cutting edge of modern philosophy and an international avant-garde.
A focused examination of the artist’s portrayals of the shop girl, alongside an understanding of what that role represented in the early twentieth century, offers a more complicated picture of the working woman and the association of middle-class consumers with her.
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