Coming Home: American Paintings, 1930-1950, from the Schoen Collection contextualizes 128 paintings from the era of vast economic, social and political change during the Great Depression and World War II. The exhibition is on display at the Georgia Museum of Art through Nov. 27.
Selected from a private collection, this exhibition includes work by Thomas Hart Benton, George Biddle, Aaron Bohrod, Charles Burchfield, Paul Cadmus, Grace Clements, John Steuart Curry, Philip Evergood, William Gropper, Joe Jones, Ethel and Jenne Magafan, Ben Shahn, and Isaac and Raphael Soyer.
The economic upheaval and social uncertainty of the worldwide depression in the 1930s gave artists the opportunity to represent conditions that were rooted in the life of a general, popular audience. Federal art programs in the U.S. in the early 1930s increased opportunities for artists through financial support and public commissions.
Coming Home features a wide range of paintings representing various manifestations of realism-including “magic realism” or “fantastic realism.” Regionalist paintings depict themes with reference to the activities of ordinary Americans and often portray conditions and events in the immediate geographical area of the artist’s home.
Social realist art portrays ideas, usually politically motivated, which illustrate the economic realities and social concerns of everyday life.
Louis Freund was a seminal figure in the advancement of the visual arts in Arkansas and the Ozarks as the nation emerged from the Great Depression. Freund ultimately settled in Eureka Springs, Ark., then a faltering spa community in the Ozarks. In Transcontinental Bus, a businessman, student, sailor and lover share a cheap ride across the country. The frame’s list of far-flung destinations and the painting’s displays of good humor point toward an optimism and continuing freedom of movement even in the face of national misfortune. In a letter written a half-century later, Freund described the work: “It was painted as an aftermath of going broke in New York in the midst of the 1931 depression. For me [Transcontinental Bus] marks the beginning of nearly 60 years of involvement as a painter and teacher of art, and I have kept it as a memory of that long bus ride from New York to St. Louis when bus travel was still in its infancy.”