Regionalism: An American Art Movement

Regionalism lived its golden age between 1930 and 1940. When American civil life was not going well enough, it took place in world history as a creepy art movement that left permanent marks on American art history after the Great Depression.

After the emergence of problems such as America’s civil distrust, feeling uncanny and the gradual loss of welfare levels of small towns, death of men, and the “great depression” in the financial sector, movements such as Regionalism and Social Realism emerged in sculpture and painting. When we looked at the 1930s when the movement emerged, it is quite natural that American artists turned inward as the upper class postponed their European travels due to economic concerns.

On the other hand, when it comes to French art, we see essential movements such as Neoclassicism and Romanticism. These art movements are important historical narrators that bear historical and mythological traces. Increasing anxiety and fear in the Romantic movement of the 1800s reveal themselves clearly in nature paintings, still lifes, and most importantly, in landscapes. Romantic landscapes, which provide the expression of emotions, gradually leave themselves to realist landscapes. The landscape art examples that we often see in European art reflect the peasant’s stuck life and their gaze on daily life.

Emil Kosa JR, Driving Along The Old Road, oil on canvas 1940. Hilbert Museum

Landscape Art

Meanwhile, when we look at the artworks of American Regionalism, we see landscape examples again. American artists, who are regionally inward, scrutinize their small towns. This art movement which is connected with the Social Realism movement is not in a hurry to show beauty and power, unlike the Soviet Social Realism movement. Since American art has always been criticized for its rootlessness, it is an effort to return to its roots and capture an artistic and historical reflection of its social unity and social depressions.

Some of the crucial figures of the movement are Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, Alexandre Hogue, Hale A. Woodruff, Martin Lewis, Charles Burchfield, Raphael Soyer, Moses Soyer, Jerry Bywaters, Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth, and Edward Laning. They are the artists that have found a place in important museums over the years with the artworks they produced during this period.

Grant Wood, American Gothic, oil on canvas, 1930. Art Institute of Chicago

What Are the Main Differences Between American Regionalism Art Movement and European Art Movements?

The American artists were far from the European tradition by distance and political crisis. Still, compared to Europe’s art world, the art markets were as liberal and accessible as possible.

American art movements never had the kind of “Saloon” tradition which French artists had. The works they produced were not accepted by the palace or an emperor or had an artistic life under the shadow of emperors and art critics. Therefore, these works of art have found their places in comics, various magazines, newspapers such as The Saturday Evening Post, creative advertisements, and children’s books illustrations.

Moreover, American Regionalism has found a place for itself in museums such as the British Museum, Chicago Art Museum, Hilbert Museum over the years and proved itself as a purely American art history movement.

Consequently, Regionalism conveys the great confusion process of the American people and their sense of return to themselves. It has created a historical note that we can read in a much broader scope thanks to the works performed by dozens of influential artists and that we can look at while examining the “Regionalism” political movement that has politically influenced the whole world.


“Regionalism Its Role in Defining’ American Art.'” Chapman University, 25 July 2016,

“American Scene Painting The Art History Archive – Art Movements.” Art History Archive, 2 May 2016,

“AMERICAN REGIONALISM.” The Art History, 21 Aug. 2018,

Images :

 Emil Kosa JR, Driving Along The Old Road, oil on canvas 1940. Hilbert Museum

Grant Wood, American Gothic, oil on canvas, 1930. Art Institute of Chicago

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