4 saints in 3 acts

A snapshot of the American avant-garde in the 1930s

Edited by Patricia Allmer and John Sears

4 saints in 3 acts
Paperback -
  • Price: £30.00
  • ISBN: 9781526113030
  • Publish Date: Oct 2017
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: Paperback
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1303-0
    • Pages: 200
    • Price: £30.00
    • 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

    4 saints in 3 acts

    Edited by Patricia Allmer, John Sears

    Paperback £30.00 / $45.95

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