Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

Wausau, WI

(715) 845-7010


America Seen: People and Place

June 12 - August 29, 1999


From left to right (click on images to enlarge them): Dale Nichols, Summer's Beauty - As Ye Sow, 1941, oil on canvas; Ogden Pleissner, Morning Mass, 1928, oil on canvas; Ernest Fiene, Winter, Pittsburgh, 1937, oil on canvas


This comprehensive exhibition of paintings, prints, and photographs explores aspects of pictorial art from the late 1920s through the early 1950s by focusing on those artists who were trying to define America's transition from isolation to world domination. Works by 62 artists offer visual references to both world wars, the Great Depression and New Deal, the growth of the American city, and nostalgia for American rural life.

From left to right (click on images to enlarge them): Isabel Bishop, Union Square, c. 1931, oil on canvas; J. Falter, Windy Day at Atchison; Grant Wood, Arnold Comes of Age, 1930, oil on board.

Step back in time for a stroll down memory lane this summer at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, during America Seen: People and Place. Sentimentalists and history buffs will love this nostalgic look at American artwork from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. The exhibition, which opens on June 12 and continues through August 29, 1999 is packed with images captured from a simpler time.

America Seen comprises over 80 paintings, prints, and photographs drawn from the permanent collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska. Blockbuster artists such as Norman Rockwell, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, and John Steuart Curry are sprinkled among lesser known favorites including Peggy Bacon and Charles Sheeler. Regionalist mythology and idealism are intermingled with grittier urban realism depicted by Isabel Bishop, Reginald Marsh, and Edward Hopper.

America Seen reflects a time before Americans had to deal with the incredible changes of the last half of the twentieth century - especially the explosion of technology and mass communication. Though often idyllic and sometimes maudlin, images of farm landscapes, picnics, skating and swimming
parties, and dance halls speak of a gentler pace of life. It's easy to turn back the clock and imagine an old-fashioned holiday gathering in the joyous kitchen scene of Doris Lee's Thanksgiving, or savor the aroma of a street vendor's fare in George Herlick's Light Refreshments on 8th Avenue.

The exhibition also takes a look at the birth of American icons such as soaring skyscrapers, elaborate factory complexes, sturdy red barns, and the ever-changing and omnipresent automobile. These cultural images came to define the United States in the twentieth century, and helped our nation chart a course from international isolationism to being a dominant world political power following World War II.

Above all else, America Seen examines people and their sense of place. From Dorothea Lange's famous Migrant Mother - a poignant image of suffering and dislocation - to the white-picket-fence town of John Philip Falter's Windy Day in Atchison, artists of this time sought out what it meant to be American.

Following the economic crisis caused by the stock market crash in 1929 and the political turmoil after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, America experienced a loss of innocence. In an effort to understand.and integrate these devastating events, many artists wanted to celebrate the positive aspects of the American spirit. In images of farm laborers, cleaning women, construction workers, miners, and office girls, artists found what they believed to be honest and genuine.

The Woodson Art Museum's presentation of America Seen: People and Place is made possible by a grant from the Gannett Foundation/Wausau Daily Herald. The Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin, supports the Museum's year-round schedule of changing exhibitions. The exhibition is touring under the auspices of the Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, Kansas City, Missouri.

Read more on the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 9/20/10

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