American Painting in the 1930’s

Grant Wood : America Gothic (1930) The Art Institute of Chicago

After its debut at the Art Institute of Chicago the exhibition “American Painting in the 1930’s” comes to Paris’ Musee Orangerie. The exhibition includes the iconic Grant Wood’s  “American Gothic” along with lesser-known work produced during “an age of anxiety.”  It is the first time that “American Gothic” (now in the Art Institute of Chicago) has been exhibited in Europe (to January 30, 2017)

The Wall Street Crash in New York, on 29 October 1929, plunged the United States, and Europe in its wake, into a dark decade. The Great Depression swept across the country bringing unemployment, expropriation and a general sense of insecurity. The exhibition provides a diverse selection of how artists using various styles responded to these troubled times. From abstraction to “socialist” realism, the esthetic worlds of painters like Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, or Edward Hopper operated side by side, as American artists began to distinguish themselves from their European counterparts. Included are some Edward Hopper classics such as “Gas” and “New York Movie” along with lesser-known work by such artists as Joe Jones and Aaron Douglas.

The exhibition is a good introduction to a period of art not widely known to the general public. But it would have been better if it had included work by some of the 3,749 artists from the New Deal Public Works of Art Program (1933-1934) who created more than 15,000 murals, paintings and other artworks for post offices and other public buildings. Instead of the movie clips projected at the end of the exhibition, it would have been more informative to see some photos taken by Farm Security Administration photographers (1935-44) such as Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.

American Painting in the 1930’s, an age of Anxiety. To January 30, 2017. Paris, Musée national de l’Orangerie. The exhibit goes to London, Royal Academy, from 25 February to 4 June 2017