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Article

M. Sue Kendall

Term used to describe scenes of typical American life painted in a naturalistic vein from c. 1920 until the early 1940s. It applies to both Regionalism and Social Realism in American painting, but its specific boundaries remain ambiguous. The phrase probably derived from Henry James’s collection of essays and impressions, The American Scene (London, 1907), published upon James’s own rediscovery of his native land after 21 years as an expatriate. The term entered the vocabulary of fine arts by the 1920s and was applied to the paintings of Charles Burchfield during 1924.

In the two decades following World War I, American writers and artists began to look for native sources for the aesthetic and spiritual renewal of their modern technological civilization. This search engaged and activated many thoughtful and creative people in the 1920s and 1930s and resulted in that flurry of activity that Waldo Frank (1889–1967) discussed as ...

Article

M. Sue Kendall

Term first used by Holger Cahill and Alfred H(amilton) Barr in Art in America (New York, 1934) and loosely applied to American urban realist painters. In particular it referred to those members of Eight, the who shortly after 1900 began to portray ordinary aspects of city life in their paintings, for example George Luks’s painting Closing the Café (1904; Utica, NY, Munson-Williams-Proctor Inst.). Robert Henri, John Sloan, William J(ames) Glackens, Everett Shinn and Luks were the core of an informal association of painters who, in reaction against the prevailing restrictive academic exhibition procedures, mounted a controversial independent exhibition at the Macbeth Galleries, New York (1908).

Sloan, Glackens, Shinn and Luks had all worked for the Philadelphia Press. It was in Philadelphia, where Henri had trained at the Academy of Fine Arts, that he convinced them to leave their careers as newspaper illustrators to take up painting as a serious profession. In an explicit challenge to the ‘art for art’s sake’ aesthetic of the late 19th century, Henri proposed an ‘art for life’, one that would abandon the polished techniques and polite subject-matter of the academicians; it would celebrate instead the vitality that the painter saw around him in everyday situations....

Article

Christian Lenz

(b Leipzig, Feb 12, 1884; d New York, Dec 27, 1950).

German painter, draughtsman, printmaker and teacher. He was one of the most important German painters of the 20th century. He was initially influenced by traditional styles, but during World War I he rejected perspective and classical proportion in favour of a more expressive objective art. He was persecuted by the Nazis in the 1930s but continued to work, painting his celebrated secular triptychs in the late 1930s and the 1940s.

Beckmann showed artistic promise from an early age, painting as early as c. 1898 a Self-portrait with Soap Bubbles (mixed media on cardboard; priv. col.; see Lackner, 1991, p. 10). After training at the Kunstschule in Weimar (1900–03), he studied under the patronage of Julius Meier-Graefe in Paris. There he became acquainted with the works of the Impressionists, Cézanne, van Gogh and probably such early French paintings as the Avignon Pietà. From 1903 until the outbreak of World War I he lived mostly in or near Berlin. He began painting landscapes and from ...

Article

David Cast

(b Durban, Transvaal, Nov 21, 1910; d Newark-on-Trent, Notts, Aug 9, 1943).

British painter of South African birth. He studied at Durban School of Art and after showing his work in 1930 earned enough money to travel to London, arriving there in 1931. Some years of poverty followed, and in 1935, a year after participating in an exhibition of paintings based on abstraction from nature (see Objective Abstraction), he gave up painting and became a journalist. He returned to painting, however, after the establishment in 1937 of the Euston Road School in London by William Coldstream, whom he had met in 1934, finding in the ideas and practices of its artists a way to accommodate both his social concerns and his admiration of a tradition of painting derived from Cézanne.

In the first paintings he produced in England Bell explored the lyrical possibilities of the paintings of Duncan Grant, but after meeting Coldstream he sharpened the social focus of his work and painted in a more formally disciplined manner. This way of working is evident in his best pictures, such as ...

Article

M. Sue Kendall

(Wesley)

(b Columbus, OH, Aug 12, 1882; d New York, Jan 8, 1925).

American painter and lithographer. He was the son of George Bellows, an architect and building contractor. He displayed a talent for drawing and for athletics at an early age. In 1901 he entered Ohio State University, where he contributed drawings to the school yearbook and played on both the basketball and the baseball teams. In the spring of his third year he withdrew from university to play semi-professional baseball until the end of summer 1904; this, and the sale of several of his drawings, earned him sufficient money to leave Columbus in September to pursue his career as an artist.

Bellows studied in New York under Robert Henri at the New York School of Art, directed by William Merritt Chase. He initially resided at the YMCA on 57th Street. In 1906 Bellows moved to Studio 616 in the Lincoln Arcade Building on Broadway; over the following years the other tenants at this location included the urban realist painter Glenn O. Coleman (...

Article

Henry Adams

(b Neosho, MO, April 15, 1889; d Kansas City, MO, Jan 19, 1975).

American painter, illustrator, and lithographer. One of the most controversial personalities in American art, both in his lifetime and today, Thomas Hart Benton was a key figure in the American Regionalist movement of the 1930s, when he focused on working-class American subject-matter and was outspoken in his denunciation of European modern painting. Today he is best remembered for this phase of his life, and much criticized because of it. But Benton’s long career is not easily reduced to a single moment or achievement: his legacy was more complex. As a young struggling artist in Paris and New York, he was a leading American modernist and abstractionist, and in his early maturity he became the teacher and lifelong father figure for Jackson Pollock, the most famous of the Abstract Expressionists. He was also a major American writer, who wrote on art and whose autobiography of 1936 became a best-seller. He was also a notable figure in American music who collected American folk songs and devised a new form of harmonica notation that is still in use....

Article

Martin H. Bush

(b Cincinnati, March 3, 1902; d New York, Feb 19, 1988).

American painter, draughtsman and etcher. Bishop moved to New York in 1918 to study at the New York School of Applied Design for Women and from 1920 at the Art Students League under Guy Pène du Bois and Kenneth Hayes Miller. During these years she developed lifelong friendships with Reginald Marsh, Edwin Dickinson and other figurative painters who lived and worked on 14th Street, assimilating these influences with those of Dutch and Flemish painters such as Adriaen Brouwer and Peter Paul Rubens, whose work she saw in Europe in 1931.

From the early 1930s Bishop developed an anecdotal and reportorial Realist style in pictures of life on the streets of Manhattan such as Encounter (1940; St Louis, MO, A. Mus.), in which an ordinary-looking man and woman are shown meeting under a street lamp. Throughout her long career Bishop concentrated on the subtleties of fleeting moments in the daily routine of people who lived and worked in and around Union Square, giving these simple occasions a sense of timelessness: shopgirls seated at a lunch counter (...

Article

(Randall)

(b London, July 19, 1928; d Hastings, E. Sussex, July 20, 1992).

English painter, writer and teacher. He studied at the Kingston College of Art (1948–50) and later at the Royal College of Art (1951–4), where he was awarded a bursary to travel in Italy. However, he was not very stimulated by the art he saw there and subsequently preferred not to travel; his taste for domestic life in England is reflected in his painting (e.g. Window, Self-portrait, Jean and Hands, 1957; London, Tate). He worked in a harsh realist style, applying the paint thickly in vibrant colours, and portraying sometimes ugly and desperate faces. He primarily chose his family as subjects and incorporated all the clutter of urban domestic life in his paintings (e.g. Still-Life with Chipfryer, 1954; London, Tate). It was this concern with social realism that brought Bratby into contact with Jack Smith, Edward Middleditch (1923–87) and Derrick Greaves (b 1927), and these artists became the main exponents of the ...

Article

John I. H. Baur

(Ephraim)

(b Ashtabula Harbor, OH, April 9, 1893; d West Seneca, NY, Jan 10, 1967).

American painter. At five Burchfield moved with his family to Salem, OH, where he spent his youth. From 1912 to 1916 he studied at the Cleveland School of Art, OH. He was awarded a scholarship to the National Academy of Design, New York, where he went in October 1916 but left after one day of classes. He returned to Salem in November, where he supported himself by working at a local metal-fabricating plant, and painted during his lunch-hours and at weekends.

Between 1915 and 1918 Burchfield painted small watercolours marked by their fantasy and arbitrary colour. In these he often painted either visual equivalents of sounds in nature, as in The Insect Chorus (1917; Utica, NY, Munson–Williams–Proctor Inst.), or re-created childhood emotions, such as fear of the dark in Church Bells Ringing, Rainy Winter Night (1917; Cleveland, OH, Mus. A.). For these works he invented symbols in a sketchbook entitled ...

Article

Claudio  

Spanish, 20th century, male.

Born in Seville.

Painter. Genre scenes.

Claudio was a representative in the 1960s of the popular vein of painting influenced by Social Realism, led by the Seville-born artist Cortijo. Starting from an everyday realism, he paid more and more attention to portraying the critically intimist side of his subjects and, as he said, to representing: 'Middle-class man, integrated into the poor taste of a consumer society'....

Article

British, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 27 July 1926, in London; died 16 December 2004.

Painter, draughtsman. Landscapes, domestic life.

Social Realism, New Realism.

Peter Coker studied in London at St Martin’s School of Art (1941-1943) before enlisting in the Fleet Air Arm (...

Article

David Cast

(Menzies)

(b Belford, Northumb., Feb 28, 1908; d London, Feb 18, 1987).

English painter and draughtsman. He moved to London as a small child with his family and for reasons of health studied privately, intending to become a doctor like his father. Gradually, however, he became interested in drawing and painting, which led him to study at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London from 1926 to 1929. In the latter year he exhibited with both the New English Art Club and the London Group, to which he was elected a member in 1934. In the works that he painted during this period, such as The Table (1932; Bristol, Mus. & A.G.) and Studio Interior (1932–3; London, Tate), he demonstrated his cultivation of a sober and measured representational style applied to prosaic domestic subject-matter and to the human figure.

Troubled by the social conditions endured by others during the Depression and by his frustrations in reflecting them adequately in his art, Coldstream gave up painting in ...

Article

Andrea Kann

(b Cedar Rapids, IA, Oct 21, 1891; d Cedar Rapids, IA, May 18, 1965).

American painter. Cone began his career painting still-lifes, landscapes, clouds, and barns, and later explored circuses, deserted interiors, and abstractions. Cone is often labelled a Regionalist (see Regionalism), but did not use this term to describe his own work. He was familiar with artistic developments in both America and Europe, yet his trajectory of themes remained distinctly his own. Cone’s compositions evolved over time, gradually distilling representation into hidden complexity.

Cone, a close friend of Grant Wood, spent most of his life in Cedar Rapids, IA. Both of them were active in the local arts community and the Stone City Art Colony (1932–3) with Edward Rowan of The Little Gallery. Cone and Wood also travelled to France together (1920), exploring Impressionist styles.

Cone graduated from Coe College, Cedar Rapids, in 1914, then studied at the Art Institute of Chicago until enlisting in the US Army in ...

Article

Cortijo  

Spanish, 20th century, male.

Active in Seville.

Painter.

Cortijo was the principal representative of Social Realism in Spain.

Article

M. Sue Kendall

(b nr Dunavant, KS, Nov 14, 1897; d Madison, WI, Aug 29, 1946).

American painter and illustrator. As one of the ‘Regionalist triumvirate’, with Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, he has been most often characterized as a faithful chronicler of rural life in Kansas. From 1916 to 1918 he was at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1919 he began study in the studio of Harvey Dunn (1884–1952) in Tenafly, NJ. After seven years as an illustrator in and around New York, he went to Paris in 1926 to study with the Russian Academician Vasily Shukhayev. Ironically, it was on Curry’s return to the East Coast the following year that he began to earn his reputation as a Regionalist by painting memories of Kansas from his studio in the fashionable art colony of Westport, CT. Baptism in Kansas (1928; New York, Whitney, see American Scene painting) shows a country child being baptized in a cattle trough. Such paintings of early American life appealed to certain East Coast urban viewers seeking to recover a lost past....

Article

Charlotte Moser

(b Utica, NY, Sept 26, 1862; d Florence, Oct 24, 1928).

American painter and illustrator. He first trained as an architectural draughtsman at the Academy of Design, Chicago (1878). After studying briefly at the Art Institute of Chicago, he went to New York, where he attended the Gotham School and the Art Students League (1886–8). By 1887 he was working as an illustrator for Century magazine. A realist landscape painter in the 19th-century academic tradition, he was influenced by the painters of the Hudson River school and particularly by the luminist, dream-like landscapes of George Inness.

Around 1900 Davies’s paintings became Symbolist in style, with the introduction of mystical nude figures in the landscape, as in Meeting in the Forest (1900; Montclair, NJ, A. Mus.) and Autumn—Enchanted Salutation (1907; Philadelphia, PA, Mus. A.). Themes combining Classical figures and landscape, which evolved in a mythical classicist style reminiscent of the work of Puvis de Chavannes, typified Davies’s work throughout his career. Increasingly drawn to ancient art and Greco-Roman civilization, he eventually identified the archaic with modernism, for example in ...

Article

Cécile Whiting

(b Philadelphia, Dec 7, 1892; d New York, June 24, 1964).

American painter and printmaker (see fig.). He was born into an artistic family: his parents studied with Thomas Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and his father was the art editor at the Philadelphia Press, a newspaper that included among its employees the Robert Henri circle of artist–reporters. Davis studied art under Henri in New York between 1909 and 1912. His earliest works, which chronicle urban life in the streets, saloons and theatres, are painted with the dark palette and thickly applied brushstrokes typical of the Ashcan school style inspired by Henri. Davis also published illustrations in the left-wing magazine The Masses between 1913 and 1916, and in The Liberator, which succeeded it in the 1920s.

With his contribution of five watercolours Davis was one of the youngest exhibitors at the Armory Show, the international exhibition of modern art that opened in New York in 1913...

Article

Reinhold Heller

(b Untermhaus, nr Gera, Dec 2, 1891; d Singen, July 25, 1969).

German painter, printmaker and watercolourist (see fig.). His initial training (1905–14) in Gera and Dresden was as a painter of wall decorations, but he taught himself the techniques of easel painting from 1909 and began concentrating on portraits and landscapes in a veristic style derived from northern Renaissance prototypes. After seeing exhibitions of paintings by Vincent van Gogh (Dresden, 1912) and by the Futurists (1913), he quickly fused these influences into a randomly coloured Expressionism. Volunteering as a machine-gunner during World War I, he served in the German army (1914–18), making innumerable sketches of war scenes, using alternately a realistic and a Cubo-Futurist style. The experience of war, moreover, became a dominant motif of his work until the 1930s. He later commented: ‘War is something so animal-like: hunger, lice, slime, these crazy sounds … War was something horrible, but nonetheless something powerful … Under no circumstances could I miss it! It is necessary to see people in this unchained condition in order to know something about man’ (Kinkel, ...

Article

Janet Marstine

Group of eight American painters who joined forces in 1907 to promote stylistic diversity and to liberalize the exclusive exhibition system in the USA. They first exhibited together at Robert Henri’s instigation at the Macbeth Galleries, New York, in February 1908, following the rejection of works by George Luks, Everett Shinn, William J. Glackens and others at the National Academy of Design’s spring show in 1907, of which Henri was a jury member before resigning in protest. Henri, the driving force behind the group, was joined not only by Luks, Shinn and Glackens but also by John Sloan, Ernest Lawson, Arthur B. Davies and Maurice Prendergast. Henri was a painter of cityscapes and portraits who worked in a dark and painterly, conservative style influenced by Frans Hals and Velázquez; a gifted teacher, he encouraged his students to depict the urban poor with vitality and sensitivity.

Sloan, Luks, Shinn and Glackens had met Henri in Philadelphia in the 1890s while employed as newspaper illustrators. Henri persuaded them to move to New York, where they painted urban realist scenes of prostitutes, street urchins and vaudeville performers, for which they were later called the ...

Article

David Cast

Name given by Clive Bell in 1938 to a group of English painters associated with the School of Drawing and Painting established in October 1937 by William Coldstream, Claude Rogers (b 1907) and Victor Pasmore, in a review of the exhibition 15 Paintings of London (Oct-Nov 1938; London, Storran Gal.). The school was initially in Fitzroy Street, but it moved soon after to premises at 314/316 Euston Road. The term was quickly broadened to describe a movement encompassing as many as 30 other painters, many of them former students of the Slade School of Fine Art, including Rodrigo Moynihan, Lawrence Gowing (1918–91), William Townsend (1909–73), Graham Bell, Anthony Devas (1911–58) and Geoffrey Tibble (1909–52).

The Euston Road painters worked essentially in a realist tradition, reacting in part against modernist tendencies (especially Surrealism and abstract art) but also responding to the conditions engendered by the Depression, which they felt called for a socially committed art. These political concerns led ...