Unexpected Eloquence: The Art in American Folk Art
  • Author: Rose, Howard
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Pages: 160
  • Size: 6 x 9"
  • Pub. Year: 1990
  • ISBN: 1-878352-01-6
  • In Stock: Yes
Price: $15.00
21 color, 25 b/w photos.

An art collector and dealer by profession, Howard Rose developed a passionate interest in American folk art thirty years ago. Concerned by the lack of serious art criticism on the subject, and disturbed by the condescension with which folk art is generally treated by fine art critics and connoisseurs, in the late 1970s he wrote Unexpected Eloquence, the first chapter of which appeared in Art in America.

"Just what is the nature of our variant on embellished handicrafts," Rose asks, "that we should explore it for a complexity and ambition which Western cultures have always reserved to the sphere of mainstream art?" In answer, he begins by narrowing the subject to exclude mere Americana and focuses instead on a small but significant body of works with the same set of evaluative measures that are applied to mainstream art. His intent is to discover distinctive aspects of the American experience that might account, beyond individual genius, for these extraordinary achievements. Rose describes a revision of conventional preconceptions about the multi-faceted American heritage, and in doing so he challenges the art establishment and opens up the field to the larger audience of art lovers. Throughout, his writing is elegant, carefully argued, occasionally impassioned. The final chapter, presented as an appendix, details the various conceptual problems in folk art criticism.

Initial publication of Unexpected Eloquence was accompanied by a major exhibition of the Howard Rose Collection at the Blum Art Gallery at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in the spring of 1990. The book and exhibition have been reviewed extensively, and the book is now distributed to independent bookstores and art museum stores throughout the United States and Canada exclusively through McPherson & Company.


"Among collectors of American folk art, one of the most embattled was Howard Rose, the novelist and esthetician. Not one to hedge his bets, he did not hesitate to say, among much else, that he knew of 'a sheet-iron curlew weathervane, circa 1870, that is fit to have told the wind for any mosque in Byzantium.' ...Howard Rose was, that is to say, a polemicist in a grand tradition."
-- John Russell, The New York Times

Howard Rose was born in Chicago in 1922. He received a fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, and, after military service during World War II, he moved to New York City where he worked for the Alan, Downtown, and Kennedy galleries. In addition to art criticism, Howard Rose was...


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