The Seven Arts
Date of Publication:
Nov. 1916 (1:1) – Oct. 1917 (2:12)
Absorbed by The Dial in 1917
Place of Publication:
New York, NY
Frequency of Publication:
The Seven Arts Publishing Co., New York
Approximately twelve to twenty works per issue. Beginning in April 1917 “The Seven Arts Chronicle” was printed with every issue. The magazine embodied a simple, scholarly aesthetic comprised of a table of contents followed immediately by criticism, poems, short plays, essays, brief editorials, and stories. The first issue contained 95 well printed pages but was somewhat smaller than the later average of 125 book-size leaves. The April 1917 edition included a supplement, “American independence and the war.”
Van Wyck Brooks
Robert Edmond Jones
Libraries with Complete Original Issues:
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Duke University; Getty Research Institute; Stanford University; Northwestern University; Amherst College; Dartmouth College; Columbia University; Ohio State University; Dickinson College; Brown University
New York: AMS Reprint Co.
Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI, 2004. (Little Magazines, American 1910 – 1919). [microform]
Editor James Oppenheim considered the establishment of The Seven Arts to be the “high point of his literary career” (Pennell). The Seven Arts set out with the hope of establishing a national art, and refused to align itself with any one style of writing. Because the magazine didn’t adhere to a specific “ism” it attracted a medley of writers – even the most anti-“ism” of them all, Robert Frost. Barry Benefield’s “Simply Suagarpie,” a short fiction piece about Southern blacks, appeared on the first page of the first issue, and exemplified the magazine’s desire to embody America in the work it printed.
In 1917 Oppenheim’s opposition to the United States’ participation in World War I became more and more obvious in his magazine’s pages, which caused his financial backers to pull out. The Seven Arts folded in October 1917. Although short-lived, the magazine published fiction, poetry, and criticism from such authors as Sherwood Anderson, Robert Frost, D. H. Lawrence, John Dos Passos, Vachel Lindsay, and Amy Lowell.
The editors offered an editorial midway through the first issue that better explained their reasons for publishing The Seven Arts. Of utmost importance to the editors was building a community of artists.
“During the summer months, we sent out the following statment to American authors:
‘It is our faith, and the faith of many, that we are living in the first days of a renascent period, a time which means for America the coming of that national self-consciousness which is the beginning of greatness. In all such epochs the arts cease to be private matters; they become not only the expression of the national life but a means to its enhancement.
Our arts shown signs of this change. It is the aim of The Seven Arts to become a channel for the flow of these new tendencies: an expression of American arts which shall be fundamentally an expression of our American life.
We have no tradition to continue; we have no school of style to build up. What we ask of the writer is simply self-expression without regard to current magazine standards. We should prefer that portion of his work which is done through a joyous necessity of the writer himself.
The Seven Arts will publish stories, short plays, poems, essays and brief editorials. Such arts as cannot be directly set forth in a magazine will receive expression through critical writing, which, it is hoped, will be no less creative than the fiction and poetry. In this field the aim will be to give vistas and meanings rather than a monthly survey or review; to interpret rather than to catalogue. We hope that creative workers themselves will also set forth their vision and their inspiration.
In short, The Seven Arts is not a magazine for artists, but an expression of artists for the community.’
Some of the response to this may be seen in this number. But we are only at a beginning. Such a magazine cannot be created by either work or wishing. It must create itself, by continuing to exist. Its presence then becomes a challenge to the artist to surpass himself. He reads his contemporaries, and a sportsmanlike rivalry springs up which evokes his best efforts. So a community spirit arises: and out of this once again, as it has before, among the Cathedral builders, among the Elizabethans, a genuine and great art may spring.”
“Editorial.” 1:1 (Nov. 1926) 52-3.
James Oppenheim (May 24, 1882 – Aug. 4, 1932)
Editor: Nov. 1916 – Oct. 1917
The primary editor of The Seven Arts was James Oppenheim, the son of wealthy Jewish parents in Minnesota. His father’s death, when Oppenheim was only six years old, left the family in “straitened circumstances,” but Oppenheim found a father figure in Fedix Adler (Hoffman 88). After attending public school in New York, Oppenheim worked his way through Columbia University. His poetry, which embraced the influences of imagism and Walt Whitman, appeared in American Magazine and Century, while his short stories appeared on the pages of Harper’s, Colliers, and Ladies Home Journal (Pennell). Oppenheim’s novel Idle Wives (1914), which was “part of the emerging body of labor fiction that laid the groundwork for the significant labor and protest novels of the 1930s,” led his wife of ten years to file for divorce (Pennell). Left alone to work, Oppenheim cofounded his proudest literary achievement, The Seven Arts, with Waldo Frank and Paul Rosenfeld. When Oppenheim’s pacifism seeped into the magazine’s pages in his objections to U.S. involvement in World War I, the financial backers pulled out and The Seven Arts collapsed. The downtrodden Oppenheim turned to the study of Carl Jung and psychology for the remainder of his career.
“The Untold Lie”
Van Wyck Brooks
“The Splinter of Ice”
“The Culture of Industrialism”
“Toward a National Culture
“Science and Free Verse”
“Concerning a Little Theater”
“A Prophet in France”
“Valedictory to a Theatrical Season”
“A Way Out”
D. H. Lawrence
“The Mortal Coil”
“The Broncho That Would Not be Broken of Dancing”
“Orange of Midsummer”
“Van Wyck Brooks.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 13 July 2009.
Chielens, Edward, ed. American Literary Magazines: The Twentieth Century.Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992.
Hoffman, Frederick J., Charles Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich. The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1947.
Pennell, Melissa McFarland. “Oppenheim, James.” American National Biographies Online. 2000. American Council of Learned Societies. 7 July 2009.
The Seven Arts. Ed. James Oppenheim. 1916 – 1917. Little Magazines, American, 1910 -1919. Microfilm. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI, 2004.
The Seven Arts. Ed. James Oppenheim. 1916 – 1917. New York: AMS Reprints.
“The Seven Arts” compiled by Ruthie Hill (Class of ’07, Davidson College)