American Scene Painting 1920 –1950

American Scene Painting is an umbrella term for American Regionalism and Social Realism otherwise known as Urban Realism Much of American Scene Painting conveys a sense of nationalism and romanticism in depictions of everyday American life This sense of nationalism stemmed from artists rejection of modern art trends after World War I and the Armory Show During the 1930s, these artists documented and depicted American cities, small towns, and rural landscapes; some did so as a way to return to a simpler time away from industrialization whereas others sought to make a political statement and lent their art to revolutionary and radical causes The works which stress local and small-town themes are often called “American Regionalism”, and those depicting urban scenes, with political and social consciousness are called “Social Realism”

American Scene Painting is a naturalist style of paintings and art popular during the first half of the 20th century in the United States The artists of the movement depicted scenes of typical American life and landscape (painted in a naturalistic, descriptive style) “American Scene” is an umbrella term for the rural ‘American Regionalism’ and the urban and politically-oriented ‘Social Realism’, but its specific boundaries remain ambiguous

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After World War I many United States artists rejected the modern trends stemming from the Armory Show Instead they chose to adopt academic realism in depicting urban and rural scenes Much of the American scene painting conveys a nationalism and romanticism of everyday American life (whereas Art Deco is more about high class society)

An antimodernist style and reaction against the modern European style, American Scene Painting was seen as an attempt to define a uniquely American style of art The term does not signify an organized movement, but rather an aspect of a broad tendency for American artists to move away from abstraction and the avant-garde in the period between the two world wars

Benton, Curry and Wood were the three major representatives of Regionalism They had all studied art in Paris but they declared their goal to create an art form that would be truly American These artists insisted that the real solution to the many and growing problems of urban American life, made clear by the Great Depression, was for the United States to return to its agrarian roots

The Regionalist’s argument received unintentional support from the so-called Urban Realists (Social Realists), who focused their attention on the city

The art produced by the American Scene artists was ambiguous and cultivated, and it drew from diverse cultures The choice of subjects might have attested to a quest for identity

In art, regionalism is a realist modern American art movement wherein artists shunned the city and rapidly developing technological advances to focus on scenes of rural life Regionalist style was at its height from 1930 to 1935, and the best known artists were the so-called “Regionalist Triumvirate” of Grant Wood in Iowa, Thomas Hart Benton in Missouri, and John Steuart Curry in Kansas During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Regionalist art was widely appreciated for its reassuring images of the American heartland

Throughout the 1930s and into the early 1950s, many American artists sought an indigenous style of realism that would embody the values of ordinary people in the everyday working world This search for a national style of art grew out of a wariness of European abstraction and a tendency toward isolationism following World War I

In the wake of severe economic uncertainty, social upheaval and political shifts that followed the disastrous Great Depression, American artists maintained a commitment to projecting a very personal view Intent on shunning the influence of European artists and instruction, these artists struggled to establish and maintain their own identity Much of this work, especially that now known as Social Realism and Regionalism, falls within the larger movement known as American Scene