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Eduard Steichen, Cooper's Bluff - Moonlight Strollers, 1905. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke. Acquired with funds provided by the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust
The popularity of paintings by Whistler and Inness prompted artists working in all media around 1900—including glazed pottery and photographs—to make use of softened details and allusive imagery. "We do not want the representation of facts," wrote one critic, "but … the blurred suggestion of appearances." Painters discovered that various techniques, from using thickly woven canvas to thin staining and roughened impasto, could produce visual softness. So prevalent was the sensibility that painter Rockwell Kent despaired: "What in the world has happened to mankind that soft—soft lines, soft colors, soft effects—means excellence?" This soon changed. In the first decades of the new century, many artists turned to urban grittiness for their subject and to Expressionism and Cubism for their style. These, in tandem with the horrors of World War I, closed this chapter of the art of painting softly.
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