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Passionate Observer: Eudora Welty among Artists of the Thirties

November 18, 2004 - January 30, 2005


The Walter Anderson Museum of Art will hold the upcoming exhibition, Passionate Observer: Eudora Welty among Artists of the Thirties, which will open on Thursday, November 18, 2004 and will be on view until January 30, 2005. Recently presented at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. to critical and public acclaim, this traveling exhibition was developed by the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi. The Walter Anderson Museum has been selected as the only venue in Mississippi to receive this remarkable exhibit.

This striking exhibition features more than 100 works including photographs, paintings, drawings, and prints by notable American artists of the 1930s. Central to this exhibition are Eudora Welty's dramatic photographs of Mississippi, Louisiana and New York during the Great Depression. Welty's images from this time period are placed alongside works by artists such as Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton; photographers Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn; and Southern artists Walter Anderson, William Hollingsworth, Marie Hull, and Karl Wolfe. Such placement allows the viewer to compare Welty's artistic motivation with visual interpretations of her contemporaries from this period.

Sensitive in spirit and acute observers of the human condition, Walter Anderson and Eudora Welty shared a humane worldview, which they were able to expertly convey in their artistic works. There are currently six exceptional Walter Anderson pieces in the exhibit, which the Museum will augment with additional Anderson creations.

"Walter Anderson and Eudora Welty, in their respective media, rank in the top tier of Mississippi artists", said Patricia Pinson, Ph.D, curator of the Walter Anderson Museum. "Both of these masters were passionate image makers, and we are delighted to display some of their finest works alongside each other, thereby illuminating the connection between these fascinating individuals."

Renowned author Eudora Welty was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1909 and was a life-long resident until her death in 2001. Her interest in photography was further nourished through her acquaintance with other Mississippi artists, such as Marie Hull, Karl Wolfe, William Hollingsworth, and Helen Jay Lotterhos. Both a compassionate observer of the world and an ardent photographer, Eudora Welty used the camera much as she used language- to document the economic instability and prevailing personal hardship experienced by the Great Depression.

As the Great Depression deepened a need to look at and define the country's character, artists nationwide focused on the activities and patterns of everyday life in America. While some artists chose to critique it, some to glorify it, and others simply to show it, this collective focus was known as the American Scene Movement, which virtually produced a self-portrait of the nation during the trying times of the 1930s. Some of the artists were social realists, like Edward Hopper, whose works illuminated urban societal problems. At the same time, Regionalists, such as Thomas Hart Benton, were intent on creating authentic American art by depicting experiences of rural America.

While Welty and fellow artists in Jackson did participate in the American Scene Movement, they did not indulge in the overt patriotism that the style evoked in many of the nationally known artists of this era. Rather, Welty's photographs taken during the Great Depression are evidence of her optimism about the human spirit and pride in the South. It is through her words and pictures that one shares in Welty's celebration of her home and her people. With Welty's discerning artistic vision, she captures many aspects of life during this period, confirming why she was known as the 'ultimate passionate observer of her time.' More than just a chronicle, Welty's photographs, like her celebrated story writing, reveal the courage and dignity of the American people during this singular era.

In addition, the exhibition features the work of the first woman photojournalist who worked during this period, Margaret Bourke-White, as well as five photographers who worked for The Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the 1930s. The black-and-white photographs taken by artists Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn and Marion Post Wolcott feature farm life in Mississippi during the Great Depression and are a landmark in the history of documentary photography. The FSA photographs, which portrayed the disheartened, impoverished state of the nation, side by side with those of Eudora Welty, emphasize her compassionate understanding of humanity and awareness of the resilient American spirit.

This exhibit is circulated by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC. and is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and in part, from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy this earlier article:


rev. 5/23/05 In the original text provided by the museum the name of the artist Helen Jay Lotterhos was truncated to Jay Lotterhos. Resource Library corrected the text at the request of Mrs. Frederick Jacob Lotterhos, III.

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