Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

Hagerstown, MD




American Prints: 1920-1950 at The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts


The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown will present an exhibition of American Prints from the Museum's Permanent Collection in the Bowman Gallery, from August 27 through October 29, 2000. Executed between 1920 and 1950, this collection of prints represent a pivotal era in this country's history and reflects a renewed interest in developing an American style by depicting scenes of national culture, landscape and social issues.

In times plagued with world war, drought and the financial collapse of the Great Depression, the American mood backed away from foreign interest and began to focus more attention on the problems at home. Poverty, unemployment and homelessness became themes of Social Realism as artists living in urban areas such as New York City and Boston were confronted with these issues in their everyday lives. The mid-west and more rural regions of the country were suffering their own problems. Crop failure, environmental crisis and drought collided with the nation' s economic ruin and artists based in agricultural areas began to focus their themes on local images. The Regionalists depicted landscapes, farming scenes and the activities of countryside residents.

A pleasant combination of both styles, the exhibition includes urban scenes as well as landscapes and portraiture. Works by Social Realists of the time, Raphael Soyer, Ben Messick and Federico Castellón, reflect the oppressive, downtrodden atmosphere of city life. Soyer's Men Eating, (see left) shows men, bundled in coats and hats, drinking coffee and eating bread, reminding us that food had become a scarcity at home. Works by Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, the artists who formed the nucleus of American Regionalism, will also be included. Their depictions of the heartland of our country came to define America. Although their styles differed from one another, each focused on the uniqueness of life in their individual areas.

Important to the time period 1920-1950 is the work created in the Graphic Arts Division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which was developed to aid American artists during the Depression years through the outbreak of World War II. Many of the artists represented in this exhibit benefited from this program and their works reflect the American scene and chronicle an era in the artistic development of the nation.

Note to our readers: If you are interested in "American Scene" art of the 1930s and 40s you will enjoy the WPA Period Print Collection Directory from the University of Montana. .

Read more about the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/23/11

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