Examining such major European modernists as Cezanne, Caillebotte, Matisse, Wyndham Lewis, and Boccioni, these writings offer a history of how artists sought to shape their sexuality in their work. In turn, the essays also show how the artists were shaped by the historical shifts in the gender order and by the exchanges between sexualities occurring in their social worlds. For example, the piece on Wyndham Lewis shows how he subscribed to an exaggerated masculinism, while the essays on Boccioni and Matisse bring out the efforts by these men to understand feminine sexuality.
In the theoretical essays, Bernard Smith questions modernism itself as a style category. And Richard Shiff and W. J. T. Mitchell trace the consequences for art theory of recognizing the physical presence of modernist artworks and the agency of imagery in our encounter with contemporary art.