On October 29, 1929, the United States of America would be thrown into a
spiral of uncertainties, insecurities and panic and for the next 12 years would
endure a tireless struggle in order to regain her footing and to move forward
Following the collapse of the U.S. stock market on Black Thuursday the
dominoes began to tumble as bankruptcies and defaults would trigger the Great
depression in the United States and abroad.
Millions of people would find themselves with out jobs and would soon find
themselves homeless, hungry and struggling to simply survive. The faith of the
American public would be greatly tested as they trudged forth to eke out an
existence for their families.
The American populace would find it difficult to view their nation as a
strong, independent and prosperous land of opportunity. Instead they were
bitter, uncertain and fearful! Would America be strong enough to withstand this
travesty and to once again land on her feet?
What Americans needed more than anything else was for someone to show them
that despite the current reign of tragedy, the United States was and still is
the epitome of strength, patriotism and perseverance.
As with any hellacious, life-altering challenge the situation may be
viewed from several very different perspectives. One can elect to observe the
current trials through the eyes of negativity; emphasizing on the hardships at
hand, or one can choose to peer through the haze of despair and find the port
that offers a haven for all of the troubled souls.
During the 1930's one such group who set out to demonstrate that in
tragedy, there can be beauty, were the artist of the new movement known as the
American Scene Painters, or American Regionalists.
Divided into 2 camps of very different political views and philosophical
perspective each group set out to depict the current condition of the world in
their own unique styles and techniques.
The Social Realists like Ben Shahn (1898-1969), Jacob Lawrence (1917-
2000) and Jack Levine (1915-) were centering their attentions to the current
social struggle and hardships faced by everyday people in their depression-laden
The Regionalists, on the other hand, opted not to show the world as mean,
dirty and greedy. Instead, artists such as Thomas Hart Benton (1889 -1975), John
Steurat Curry (1897 - 1946) and Grant Wood (1892 - 1942) were concentrating on
guiding the United States to a better future by promoting her in a positive
Artists of the Regionalist camp would focus their painting efforts away
from turmoil and chaotic New York and instead, paint their respective Midwestern
homesteads illustrating rural Americans complete with their Midwestern values of
hard work, self-preservation and love of their community.
It was these clear, simple paintings that portrayed America as she had
once been and would once again become: strong, self-reliant, prosperous and a
land of golden opportunities.
Thomas Hart Benton . For Educators | PBS
... Visual Arts) Overview: A major leader of the American
Regionalism art movement,
Thomas Hart Benton became famous for his murals that brought America to life.
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