American Scene Painting

American scene painting refers to a naturalist style of painting and other works of art of the 1920s through the 1950s in the United States. American scene painting is also known as Regionalism.

After World War I many American artists rejected the modern trends emanating from the Armory Show and European influences such as those from the School of Paris. Instead they chose to adopt academic realism in depicting American urban and rural scenes.

Much of American scene painting conveys a sense of nationalism and romanticism in depictions of everyday American life. During the 1930s, these artists documented and depicted American cities, small towns, and rural landscapes; some did so as a way to return to a simpler time away from industrialization whereas others sought to make a political statement and lent their art to revolutionary and radical causes. Representative artists include Thomas Hart Benton, John Rogers Cox, Grant Wood, John Steuart Curry, Alexandre Hogue, Dale Nichols, William S. Schwartz. Many artists involved in the movement studied with or under Benton at the Kansas City Art Institute. Artists influenced by the Regionalist movement that studied at KCAI include John Stockton de Martelly, Frederic James and Pat Potucek.

The works which stress local and small-town themes are often called "American Regionalism", and those depicting urban scenes, with political and social consciousness are called "social realism." Ben Shahn, Reginald Marsh, Isaac Soyer, Raphael Soyer, and Jack Levine are identified as Social realists.

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