The Great Depression Brought Changes to Art in Many Ways

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Sean Rayl
American Art History

The Great Depression brought changes to art in many ways.

America finally had the war behind it. The country was booming and the majority had a carefree attitude. People were accustom to their lives and were not prepared for what was about to happen in 1929. The new decade would be a time of great change for everyone – art included. The 1920’s would bring a rollercoaster of events to America.

Times had changed, the war was over and new technologies were starting to emerge causing people to change their lifestyles. Many people had moved from the farms into the big cities so they could help with the war effort. Millions of immigrants flourished to America. This would mark a new era in American history known as “The Roaring 20’s” and the beginning of modern day America. Life in America was more open and out going then normal. Jazz clubs opened up at mostly every block, where young vibrant people would go drink and dance the night away. This kind of social activity was looked down upon by older citizens that thought this kind of behavior was inappropriate. This would ultimately lead up to prohibition and the first time ever in American history an amendment was excused making alcohol illegal in the United States. This caused crime rates to skyrocket within American cities causing some of the most notorious gangsters in American history to emerge, such as Al Capone. So many other things came out of the roaring 20’s, such as inventions of the automobile, radio and airplanes, new fashion styles, skyscrapers and movies. With life changing, so did art. Mostly throughout the 1920’s there were a variety of art movements and styles that were popular. Such as surrealism, Art Deco, regionalism and with new technologies came photography and also film.

In 1929 the stock market crashed causing many people jobs and their life savings. Banks were continuing to fail and jobless workers would rely on crime and theft to support their families. With the stock market crash and many people in debt, this paved the way for many artists to express their feelings, through painting, architecture [pic]and photography. One of the most popular art movements during this time was known as American Scene painting. This art movement rejected the earlier European Modernist and abstract styles. It primarily depicted realistic scenes of American life. One of the famous American scene painters was Charles Sheeler and was known as a Precisionist painter. His paintings mainly consisted of simplified forms of American factories and buildings and used crisped defined edges with smooth brushwork throughout his paintings. Above is his famous work titled simply “American Landscape, 1930”. Another popular form of art was art Deco, which was mostly found in American architecture, jewelry, furniture, clothes and handcrafts through out the 1920’s. It’s geometrical design with parallel lines kept the sleekness style throughout the 1920’s. Surrealism was originally formed in Europe and with art students from America they had brought the style over to the United States. Some of the most popular surrealist was Alexander Calder and Joseph Cornell. Calder was a sculptor and an engineer who was inspired by surrealist painters in Europe to sculpt and create moveable pieces of art. One of his famous works was “Lobster Trap and Fish Tail”. All of the parts moved, not mechanically, but with the wind. People think he was an abstract artist, but he wanted to stimulate the imagination.

Regionalism was another art movement that was influenced by the American Scene painting. Grant Wood was a regionalist painter who focused on the everyday living in America. His “American Gothic is a realistic painting of what appears to be a husband and wife in front of their farm house. But it is actually supposed to be an older Iowa farmer and his daughter. The Regionalist movement is divided into two groups. One is the social realist and was influenced...
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