Regionalism

DEFINITION

A term used generally to describe an artist's depiction of a certain geographical area but in American art history pertains specifically to a movement founded by Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, with fellow mid-westerners Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry in the 1930???s. Charles Burchfield is sometimes categorized with them as well. As painters they extolled the virtues of living in small town or rural America, and they sought metaphors for prime human experiences in the ordinary people and simple ways of that rural culture. For some, it was a patriotic reaction against the avant-garde experimentations of contemporary European artists, especially Parisians such as Picasso and Braque with Cubism and Max Ernst and Andre Breton with Surrealism. It was also a rebellion against industrialism. Of this movement Benton wrote: "The name Regionalism was taken, I believe, from a group of southern writers, poets and essayists, who in the late twenties called themselves 'agrarians.' These, turning from the over-mechanized, over-commercialized, over-cultivated life of our metropolitan centers, were seeking the sense of American life in its sectional or regional centers. But this Regionalism was not a clear term. Neither Wood, Curry, nor I ever held ourselves, either in space or time, to any American region... (We) thought of ourselves simply as American or Americanist painters, sectional at one moment, national and historical at others. If we dealt largely with 'agrarian' subjects, it was because these were significant parts of our total American experience." Regionalism abated with the attitudes of international outreach that developed among the citizenry after World War II. Sources:Reece Summers, Curator, Great Plains Art Collection, Lincoln, Nebraska; "Phaidon's Dictionary of Twentieth Century Art".

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