American Regionalism

In my previous post i was talking about Eamon de Valera’s fear of change in Ireland during the 1960’s. When i was studying abroad, i took a module American Art, which i have discussed some aspects here before, but i noticed that America went through a similar stage in the 1930’s around the time of the American Industrial revolution.

The country was not ready to meet the fast pace of city life and they clenched onto the past by depicting rural america in an idealised manner. This form of art became known as American Regionalism. The artists would create paintings in which rural america appear to be thriving. they illustrated manual labour, even though machinery was becoming increasing popular at the time, stability, the true american hard working families. They longed for the America before it became industrialised, before the big change of life in America.

The picture below is painted by one of the most famous regional painters, Grant Wood.

Grant Wood, American Gothic


Woods work was aimed to appreciate  America, and not countries in Europe. In this example we can see a man and wife standing outside their traditional american house, the pitch fork he is holding represents three things,  Unity with God and the holy spirit, it represents hand manual labour, and third, hell. The pitchfork can be in relation to the devils, the devil being the one taking people away from traditional american life.

Similar to the situation that occurred in Ireland just over  two decades previous. They wanted the ‘Traditional’ life to remain the same. Nostalgia shared by both countries.Its interesting to see Ireland was not the only country that went through a fear of change in traditional life.


Abstract Expressionism

One of the modules that I studied while I was abroad was ‘American Art’. I found this class very interesting as it was something I would not have studied in the University of Limerick. Throughout this module we studied the history of art in America and the progression of the work created. A form of art that stood out for me was ‘Abstract Expressionism’.

This type of art became popular in America around the late 1930’s early 1940’s. Abstract expressionism aims to please the viewer by allowing them to find their own meaning of the Painting. The art produced did not follow any strict rules of painting, and they often consisted of distorted shapes and strange colouring.

One of the artists who stood out for me during my studies was Jackson Pollock. Pollock was known to be an aggressive and troubled man who also was an alcoholic. His style was unique and his approach to his work was to let the painting paint itself. He favoured a technique called ‘Dripping’ which simply consisted of him dipping a paint brush over the canvas and allowing the paint to fall, creating his work. This style also seems to reflect him as a person as he was very careless and distracted.

He was determined to create art from the ‘unconscious’ to represent the surreal and the sublime. In order to do so he felt that he should never premeditate his work, which is why the ‘dripping’ technique was favoured by him. The point of this was to allow the view to become lost in the painting and create a meaning that is personal and intimate.

‘Number One’ Jackson Pollock

Abreact expressionism was an intriguing form of art to study, especially Jackson Pollock and his work that attempts to represent the sublime very interesting as I have read books in which they also try to create an idea of this and it was nice to see it from the platform of art, instead of literature.

Jackson Pollock at Work