(Last Updated On May 25, 2022)
Colleen Browning (1918–2003) was an English painter who later emigrated to the United States. As a realist painter, the timing of her career was unfortunate because of US (CIA) efforts to promote abstract art at the expense of realist painters, classical composers and other representative artists during the Cold War. This campaign is now well-documented in several books including the landmark Who Paid the Piper? : CIA and the Cultural Cold War (2000) by Frances Stonor Saunders.
It is not even clear what was the motivation of the CIA at that time.
Did they associate representational art and classical music with the Russians, or what?
Well, maybe you should read the book. Yes, Russians have established themselves in the arena of Classical music with Tchaikovsky and those who followed. The U.S. was desperate to distinguish itself by touting its legacy of Blues, Jazz, etc. But in a racist country, overplaying the importance of these styles was problematic and so abstraction was pushed in all media.
At that time, the government of the USSR promoted in visual arts a dogmatic caricature of realism, called “socialist realism.” So the USA promoted anti-realist art, in particular non-figurative painting.
That situation was equally, ridiculously dogmatic on both sides. How could the U.S. government, or its intelligence agencies, have believed that they were somehow hurting the Soviet Union by promoting the opposite kind of art?
That is the thing about dogmatism and ideology; it is not rational but emotional and causes people to do horrible things. To the people pulling the strings, it was a shallow pretense but when made into a threat, will move people. There are far too many examples to try to list here.