The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Modern Art Until C. 1960

What is American Regionalism?

While some American artists and critics were enamored with European modernism, others—like Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Grant Wood (1892–1942), and Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975)—turned inward and examined American life during the 1930s and 1940s. The quiet, lonely paintings of Hopper, such as his famous Nighthawks (1942), a painting that depicts a brightly lit, if empty, restaurant interior on a dark night, evoke a sense of isolation. Iowa-born artist Grant Wood studied in Paris where he was exposed to the realism of the Northern Renaissance, a realism that he infused into his now iconic painting, American Gothic (1930), which depicts a farmer couple (actually modeled by the artist’s sister and a local dentist) who stand in from of their clapboard home, exaggerated to have the look of a Gothic cathedral with long, pointed windows. Wood’s painting glorifies the hardworking, American farmer. Thomas Hart Benton also memorialized the American worker in his series of murals for the New School of Social Research in New York City, called America Today. American Regionalism provided a comfortable depiction of America’s heartland after the challenges of the Great Depression and World War II. Essentially a realist style, though also occasionally political, it fell out of favor as European-inspired modernism dominated the American art scene during the 1940s.


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