Forever the kooky uncle of New York City Museums, the Whitney Museum of American Art has undertaken to present, in two installments, an exhibit entitled The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-2000. Fortunately for us, there's also The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-1950, a book that provides a fantastic vicarious experience of the first part of this wide-ranging exhibition. The curtain opens with an array of elegant women immortalized in the dashing society portraits of John Singer Sargent and the gleaming bronzes of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The final section begins with Norman Rockwell's legendary Freedom from Want depicting mom delivering the turkey to a field of light-filled grins. Curator Barbara Haskell's expansive running discourse on the cultural context of these works is augmented by critical examinations of important paintings and books, creating the effect of a guided tour through this ambitious and luscious survey.

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