manifesti from the early 20s in California

Society of Six

we believe

all great art is founded upon the use of visual abstractions to express beauty

these abstractions are:

space (3D form)
atmosphere (air)
vibration (life, movement)
form (length and breadth)
and form of accidents (persons, trees, etc.)

patterns is the means by which abstractions are arranged and united so as to procure an aesthetic end

by pattern we mean:

tone, etc.

Form, i.e., objects, is accidental and transitory, except in its large sense - space. That the object we see happens to be a man instead of a tree or another object is an accident, since if we look a few feet to one side we see an entirely different object. Form is also destroyed and distorted by light, color, vision, space -- in other words, its visual existence is by grace of larger abstractions. We choose the greater rather than the lesser, inasmuch as painting is interpretation rather than representation, and it is only by sacrifice of the lesser of the lesser that we can express the greater with the most force.


We do not believe that painting is a language. Nor do we try to 'say" things, but we try to fix upon the canvas the joy of vision. To express, to show -- not to write hyroglyphics. We have no concern with stories, with lapse of time, nor with the probability or improbability... we are not trying to illustrate a thought or write a catalog... we have much to express, but nothing to say. We have felt, and desire that others may also feel.


stanton macdonald-wright of la (later ucla prof; I took one of my last haiku classes to LACMA's retrospective; he'd illustrated basho,, had seemingly a conversion to buddhism / buddhist style painting)

the purile repetition of the surface aspects of the masters has ceased to interest any intellident man. the modern artist striving to express his own age... cannot be expected to project himself with any degree of sureness five hundred years back and drag forth by the aid of [necromancy] the corpse of an art inspired and nourished by a period environment... let our final work affect you as it will, but let not your final opinion be the result of some preconceived antagonism.

... The apparent preference, in the past, for dead form, is not so much a preference arising from free selection as a habit due to the fact that any new work of an evolutionary character has been ... withheld from public view...


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