Highlighting the work of nine American artists who at the beginning of the twentieth century were inspired by the world around them to realistically depict everyday scenes, the Bruce Museum
presents the new exhibition Telling American History: Realism from the Print Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly from August 31 through December 1, 2013.
The show features more than 40 original fine art prints including lithographs and etchings that chronicle daily life the bustle of urban streets, boisterous moments of leisure, modern modes of transportation, and bucolic rural images by leading artists who approached their subject matter through the lens of realism: George Bellows (1882-1925), Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Martin Lewis (1881-1962), Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), John Sloan (1871-1951), Benton Murdoch Spruance (1904-1967), Stow Wengenroth (1906-1978), and Grant Wood (1891-1942).
Each print featured in the exhibition was chosen for its subject matter and artistic merit, notes Diane Myers, the exhibitions curator and former Bruce Museum Manager of School & Tour Services. Placed together, they present windows into scenes of America's past, creating opportunities for us to reflect on the art and history that came before us.
The artworks present visitors with a snapshot of America from 1905 through 1967. Set amid a backdrop of events such as World War I, the Great Depression, New Deal programs, and World War II, the country was experiencing changes in its cultural, geographic, and demographic nature. The nation experienced a great upheaval as citizens and immigrants alike flocked to urban areas in hopes of greater economic prospects. At the same time, advances in technology and transportation were transforming rural regions.
All of these elements shaped the work of the artists featured in this exhibition, Myers explained, although each chose to depict his experiences in a slightly different, but still realistic, manner.
Drawn from different areas of the country, the artists shared a similar goal of creating artwork that was available to all. They embraced realism, using it to capture images of modern American society as it quickly changed around them and distinguishing their work from the traditional, idealized and romanticized work of European art.
By illustrating everyday scenes, the artists featured here created connections for the average American and invited them to become part of the artistic dialog, Myers said.Their images not only appealed through accessible subject matter, but also appealed to the pocketbook of the everyday person.
Addressing the relevance of this art to 21st century viewers, Myers observes, The prints bring the same accessibility to today's audiences as they did when they were first created.
Telling American History: Realism from the Print Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly is the third show in the past three years that the Bruce Museum has organized from the collection Dr. Kelly, whose holdings include European prints from the 15th through 19th centuries and American prints from the 19th and 20th centuries.