William Benton Museum of Art
University of Connecticut
The American Style: Paintings and Drawings of the 30s and 40s
June 13 - August 15, 1999 (Closed July 3 - 5)
Reginald Marsh, Times Square Subway, 1938, tempera on Masonite, Gift of Helen Benton Boley
The William Benton Museum of Art is presenting an exhibition of paintings and drawings from the early part of this century entitled The American Style: Paintings and Drawings of the 30s and 40s. The 1930s and 1940s are decades in contrast. Today, the 1930s is one of the most familiar periods of American art.
Superficially viewed, the decade presents an homogeneous artistic idea fostered by an artistic world circumscribed by the economic stagnation of the Depression and the diminished or impossible dream of travel and study - particularly abroad. In the 1940s - one of the least familiar decades of American art - art was superseded by the imperatives of the war years, leading an almost underground existence and buffeted by the demands of conflicting artistic styles.
From the late 1930s, the trauma of the war brought many European modernists to our shores whose surrealist, cubist, and DaDa-ist visions confounded and chafed against our indigenous styles. But, one finds continuity as well. Not untouched by European ideas but finding their own path were the majority of American artists who painted over these two decades. Ross Braught, James Daugherty, Lucille Corcos, Simka Simkhovich, Hananiah Harari, Armin Landeck, and Adolf Dehn were painters, muralists, illustrators, and draftsmen who worked in a diversity of styles anchored in an underlying realism.
There existed no one overriding "ism" but a consensus of interest in figural studies, contemporary genre scenes, and urban and country landscapes that were solidly drawn, imaginatively composed, coloristically strong, and above all visually accessible. Their work was exhibited in annual exhibitions that almost every museum mounted , but among the best known of which were those of the Art Institute of Chicago, National Academy of Design and Whitney in New York, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, and the Pennsylvania Academy in Philadelphia.
The Musuem's exhibition this summer stresses the unity and diversity of work among a few of these artists who flourished creatively during the Depression and the war years. The ideals of their art defined what we know as the style of the 30s and 40s in American art.
For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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