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Styles & Periods

In the 1930s, after the alienation of war and the economic hardships of the Depression, art in America became more conservative, reacting against the principles of European Modernism. Regionalism, one of the two main styles of painting at this time, centered on “American” themes, and in particular, scenes from the Midwest. The Regionalists’ work is figurative and representational, rejecting any overtly abstract influences. Nationalism is dominant in these paintings that strove to establish a new style that reflected uniquely American concerns. Small towns, families living on farms, and the American landscape were glorified, as if propaganda to feed a tired nation. Thomas Hart Benton was a leader among the Regionalists. He created murals based on sketches he produced while traveling extensively throughout the United States. While he dominated the style, his work had many aspects of pre-war international art. Another major figure was Grant Wood, whose American Gothic became one of America’s most celebrated paintings.

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