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US Regionalist Art: 1920-1950

, US Regionalist Art: 1920-1950

Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics

 

 

US Regionalist Art: 1920-1950

 

 

Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics

Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics

 

 

Regionalism was an art movement popular in the United States (particularly the Midwest) from approximately 1920 to 1950. Regionalist art arose in direct opposition to the prevailing European Modernist aesthetics of the time, which featured a high degree of visual abstraction (e.g. the works of Pablo Picasso) and a deliberate avoidance of photorealism, particularly in painting. Whereas European Modernist aesthetics emphasized a reductive approach in color and complexity of technique, American Regionalism quested after an accurate portrayal of pastoral and rural themes. Regionalist art was largely intended to give the world a window into American culture and rural life.

 

Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics

Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics

 

We also must remember that European Modernist aesthetics had not taken firm root in America even during the movement’s height, except in worldly cities like New York. Outside of cities with a large international presence and influence, the Regionalist mantra that artists should consult only their local history and folklore as an artistic wellspring often won out. Of course, this artistic isolationism had its fair share of dismissal by art critics, as the trumpeting over “homegrown” art often associated its familiarity with goodness, something that reverberated with those who followed the burgeoning fascist movements in Italy and elsewhere. Regionalist art was, unfortunately, closely tied with nationalism in many areas of the US, and functioned as a direct reaction against aesthetic foreign influence (and in some cases, any foreign influence at all).

 

Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics

Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics

 

As one might imagine, this newfound isolationism did not win the Midwest much favor among international artists and art critics. Regionalist art unfortunately became one of the contributing factors (however slight) to American isolation in World War II, with political tensions running high and many US citizens reluctant to enter what they saw as an entirely European war. It is in this way, however, we can see the back and forth between art movements and the larger societal give-and-take. American Regionalism emerged as a sentiment of the times but also contributed to a larger political and artistic climate in its own way, encouraging artists to explore their local history and invest in their local communities. Many different kinds of artistic revivals were common during this period, and conventional pioneer activities like blacksmithing, fishing, basket weaving, tanning, and hunting found their way into Regionalist art as sources of rich aesthetic and history. As an art movement, American Regionalism eventually found lasting popularity among local historians, many of whom feature small local art galleries within county-sponsored history museums.

 

Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics

Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics

 

 

Keywords: Regionalist art, art movement, American Regionalism, European Modernist aesthetics