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Charles Demuth was one of those who made the most of the new possibilities, his cityscapes such as the curiously and poetically named (William Carlos Williams was his closest friend) Nospmas. M. Egiap Nospmas. M. of 1921, are usually delicately coloured to soften their aggressive cropping and compression. Charles Sheeler was another: he took either a low or high viewpoint to give his buildings a skewed perspective and make them all the more looming. Cézanne once said that the painter should “Treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone” and Sheeler clearly defines this dictum in paint.

Georgia O’Keeffe is best known for her mystical paintings of New Mexico but she first came to prominence in New York, exhibiting in Stieglitz’s 291 gallery and then marrying him. There are none of her flower paintings in the exhibition but comparing East River from the Shelton Hotel of 1928 to her 1930 picture of Ranchos Church, a New Mexico adobe building at Taos, is to see an austere, almost purist vision of the American built environment formed in the metropolis being transported to the back of beyond.

Hopper and O’Keeffe are the big draws, but the real surprise is just how many artists were working in this vein. The exhibition introduces a series of unfamiliar painters such as Rawlston Crawford, Jacob Lawrence and George Ault (whose atmospheric images of empty streets and buildings in the fog or at dusk particularly deserve to be better known) who envisioned America as a series of “arrangements”, alongside the familiar photographic pioneers Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Margaret Bourke-White, and Stieglitz himself.

Ironically, the artist who most perfectly sums up the theme was not American at all. Christopher Nevinson was one of the greatest of British First World War artists and, having survived the trenches, he travelled to New York in 1919. His first exhibition of prints was well received, his second less so, leading him to change the name of his major paining of the city, a sweep of highline rail tracks surging up towards the skyscrapers, from New York — an Abstraction to The Soul of the Soulless City. Nevinson does not feature in the exhibition but the artists present learnt from both the excitement and ambivalence of his painting, and its titles.

The furniture maker Thomas Chippendale was born in 1718 and Chippendale300 is a series of exhibitions around the country — from Firle Place in Sussex to Nostell Priory near Wakefield — to mark his tercentenary. Perhaps the most significant of them is Thomas Chippendale: Designer, Maker, Decorator at Harewood House in Yorkshire, home to one of the most significant collections of his work in the country.

In 1767 Edwin Lascelles commissioned Chippendale to furnish the home that had just been built by John Carr of York and Robert Adam. The project, which encompassed not just furniture but curtains, carpets and wallpapers, took 30 years and was completed by Thomas Chippendale Junior following Chippendale senior’s death in 1779. The ensemble is worth seeing because he produced relatively little furniture himself (about 600 pieces can be ascribed to him and his workshop) despite “Chippendale” becoming ubiquitous following the publication of his The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director in 1754 — both Catherine the Great and Louis XVI owned copies. With the Director and its 61 plates, Chippendale did not just incorporate Neoclassical, Chinese and Gothic motifs in a new type of Rococo but became the foremost tastemaker of the Georgian age.
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