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Rather than a deliberate movement, guided by a manifesto or unified agenda, it developed organically through the works of Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, and John Steuart Curry who were dubbed the "Regionalist Triumvirate." Rejecting abstraction, they were responding to a cultural isolationism that saw much of modern art as foreign and out of touch with a true American spirit.These three men dominated the movement; although other artists were briefly associated with Regionalism, most remained limited to their local communities or else passed through to other styles for their mature career.On the right appears a group of young people, dressed in white, reverentially waiting their turn to be baptized.
This exhibition celebrates the rich artistic output of London, Ontario from its earliest days as a city in the mid-1800s through to today. Judson, Paul Peel, James Griffiths, Florence Carlyle, Eva Bradshaw, Albert Templar and more.
Sampling historical and contemporary offerings, selected highlights will draw from Museum London’s rich collection of regional art. The middle portion of the exhibition features a selection of artworks by artists who gave rise to London Regionalism, the art movement of the late 1950s and 1960s sparked by local practitioners who championed their home as the centre and subject of creative activity.
Curry's work balances a detailed and straightforward style that seems to report facts with larger metaphorical and allegorical levels of interpretation.
The emphasis on observable facts nearly overshadows the symbolic rays of light that frame two birds, one white (evoking the holy spirit believed to descend upon those being baptized) and the other dark (representing the sinfulness washed away by baptism).
The emergent Abstract Expressionism, which completely rejected Regionalist aesthetics (even though Jackson Pollock was a student of Thomas Hart Benton), would come to represent the American values of freedom and individuality in the 1940s.
While certainly some artists, like Andrew Wyeth or Norman Rockwell, continued to work in a figurative and realist style, they were marginalized by the dominance of mid-century abstraction and not considered part of the Regionalist movement.
For some, it was a patriotic reaction against the avant-garde experimentations of contemporary European artists, especially Parisians such as Picasso and Braque with Cubism and Max Ernst and Andre Breton with Surrealism. Of this movement Benton wrote: "The name Regionalism was taken, I believe, from a group of southern writers, poets and essayists, who in the late twenties called themselves 'agrarians.' These, turning from the over-mechanized, over-commercialized, over-cultivated life of our metropolitan centers, were seeking the sense of American life in its sectional or regional centers. Neither Wood, Curry, nor I ever held ourselves, either in space or time, to any American region...
(We) thought of ourselves simply as American or Americanist painters, sectional at one moment, national and historical at others.
The below artworks are the most important in American Regionalism - that both overview the major ideas of the movement, and highlight the greatest achievements by each artist in American Regionalism.
Don't forget to visit the artist overview pages of the artists that interest you.