Regionalists, The By Kuykendall, Lara
The visual artists known as the Regionalists rose to prominence in the United States during the 1930s. They advocated the use of realistic styles to depict the lives and environs of everyday Americans. The most well-known Regionalists were Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, and John Steuart Curry, whose paintings and prints chronicled the agrarian Midwest. During the Great Depression, Regionalism was seen as a comfortingly accessible mode of art. It appeared to celebrate American cultural history using a realistic figural style that repudiated abstraction, which was understood to be a European import. The populist art group Associated American Artists successfully marketed and sold lithographs by many Regionalists to middle-class patrons across the country, thereby extending Regionalism’s influence to those who were not accustomed to owning works of art. The Regionalists’ views of American life were not exclusively flattering, but their approach differed from the critical approach of Social Realists like Ben Shahn or Philip Evergood, whose works illuminated injustices they perceived in contemporary life. The regionalist heyday drew to a close with the advent of World War II and the development of Abstract Expressionism.