Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Eight Classic Examples of American Regionalism: Wood, Curry, Benton

American Gothic, 

the famous American Regionalist painting by Grant Wood, is on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum for the first time from Aug. 30 through Nov. 16, 2014. 

The masterpiece  joins Wood’s Daughters of Revolution in the exhibition, Conversations around American Gothic. 
Daughters Freedom and the Brush: American Painting in the 1930s.

Eight classic examples of American Regionalism, an art movement that depicts small town America and the rural Midwest from the late 1920s through the 1930s, by Iowa native Wood and his friends and associates, John Steuart Curry of Kansas and Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, are on display to encourage visitors to consider what these works meant in their own time and what they mean today. In between the World Wars, isolationism led Wood, Curry and other painters to reinvent American art by examining scenes from daily life in the United States. Rejecting abstraction as too “European,” they adopted realism as a national style with a revered history. Collectors and writers then catapulted these artists to fame.

Through comparisons of these paintings of the American heartland, this exhibition aims to stimulate lively conversation about stereotypes, nationalism, urban versus rural life, humor versus sincerity and shifting definitions of “realism.” This exhibition also will engage visitors in debates about why a painting of a steadfast farm couple standing before a Gothic Revival cottage became the most widely recognized American painting of all time.

To highlight Wood’s genius and intentions, the exhibition will dissect his painting

Daughters of Revolution, 

a satirical condemnation of patriotism. Wood painted this work in response to the Cedar Rapids chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who had ignited a controversy over the German fabrication of stained glass windows that he had designed. The exhibition includes not only Wood’s full-scale preparatory drawing but also an impression of the engraving that appears in the background. This engraving, Washington Crossing the Delaware, is one of the most celebrated images of George Washington, created after the painting by the German-born artist Emmanuel Leutze.

Contemporary critics and patrons touted Curry's and Benton's works for representing essential truths about the Midwestern experience. 

Curry’s The Old Folks, 

acquired by the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2002, portrays the artist’s parents in their cozy home looking over the family farm that they would lose during the Great Depression.

Baptism in Kansas (Whitney Museum of American Art), also by Curry, 

launched him into the national spotlight when Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney purchased it for her new museum in New York City. In 

Tornado (Muskegon Museum of Art), Curry 

dramatized the farmer’s struggle against the elements and the heroism of ordinary Americans, recurrent themes in Regionalist paintings. 

Benton’s rhythmic composition Cradling Wheat (Saint Louis Art Museum) celebrates the beauty in hard, outdoor work. 

 From an interesting article about the exhibition:

After the exhibition here, the much-in-demand "Daughters" will travel to St. Louis, return home for a short time, then rejoin "Gothic" in Chicago in 2016 for a major exhibition, "Freedom and the Brush: American Painting in the 1930s." That exhibition will then travel to Paris and London.