Urban realism, with a touch of Renaissance idealism, was the bread and butter of the Fourteenth Street School, a group of New York artists who made their mark between the world wars. A new exhibition at the University of Virginia Art Museum, "Figure Study: The Fourteenth Street School and the Woman in Public," draws on the museum's collection of paintings, prints and drawings by these artists.
The exhibit opened Aug. 26 and runs through Dec. 23. The museum
is open to the public free of charge Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Artists including Kenneth Hayes Miller, Isabel Bishop, Guy Pene du Bois and Reginald Marsh, who all lived and worked in the Union Square neighborhood and studied or taught at the Art Students League, created a typology of urban dwellers, depicting them in various public and private activities.
Through these modern urban types, they cataloged changes in social and sexual politics that took place in the first half of the 20th century, according to exhibit curator Melissa Ragain, former museum Luzak-Lindner Fellow and an art history Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences' McIntire Department of Art.
"It was in these changes that the painters of Fourteenth Street located their modernity, albeit with a painterly style indebted to Renaissance art," Ragain said.
Members of the group associated aspects of contemporary womanhood with the bodily types of Titian, Raphael and Rubens, their interest buttressed by the Art Student League's emphasis on life drawing courses forboth male and female students. Unlike the abstract painters who were their neighbors, the Fourteenth Street School depicted rapid social change through the enduring subject of the human form, as they searched for a Renaissance ideal among the crowds of Union Square.