- Format: Paperback
- ISBN: 978-1-5261-1303-0
- Pages: 200
- Price: £25.00
- Published Date: October 2017
Four Saints in Three Acts by Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson was a major avant-garde phenomenon of the 1930s, an experimental opera that nonetheless achieved remarkable popular success. Photography was a key element of that success, but its complex roles in the construction, representation and dissemination of the opera have hitherto received little critical attention. The photographic recording of the all-African American cast in particular affords a unique insight into the complexities of Four Saints in relation to the Harlem Renaissance and the New York avant-gardes of the time.
This book, published in collaboration with The Photographers' Gallery, London, presents a wide selection of photographs of the cast, performances, and other material - many images reproduced for the first time - alongside essays by an international range of scholars exploring different aspects of the opera, including dance, fashion, music, and avant-garde writing, as well as photography.
'4 Saints in 3 Acts-A Snapshot of the American Avant-Grade in the 1930s is a comprehensive and engrossing examination of the landmark opera. Along with its collection of masterful essays, the book includes a collection of rare photographs of African American actors that add another layer to our understanding of the cultural phenomenon that was 4 Saints in 3 Acts.'
Emily Bernard, Professor of English and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at University of Vermont
'In sum, Patricia Allmer and John Sears' book Four Saints in Three Acts: A Snapshot of the American Avant-Garde in the 1930s (Allmer and Sears 2017), accompanying the exhibition, impressively analyzes a vast and complex amount of this historical material, and the beautifully curated photographs offer a visual overview of the avant-garde opera.'
Lisa Moravec, Photography and Culture (March 2019)
Foreword by Anna Dannemann
Introduction - Patricia Allmer and John Sears
1 Moving pictures: photography and time in Four Saints in Three Acts - Patricia Allmer
2 Modernism in tableaux: race and desire in Four Saints in Three Acts - Lisa Barg
3 Styling Four Saints in Three Acts: scene, costume, fashion and the queer modern moment - Christopher Breward
4 Not so black and white: Frederick Ashton's 'outsider' ballet - Lucy Weir
5 'As if they were the saints they said they were': Gertrude Stein's Four Saints in Three Acts and serial resemblance - John Sears
6 The visitable past: Four Saints in Three Acts remembered - Steven Watson
Patricia Allmer is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Edinburgh
John Sears is an independent scholar