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"Scenes of American Life: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum"
2000-09-13 until 2000-11-12
Telfair Museum of Art
Savannah, GA, USA

Scenes of American Life: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum presents over 60 important paintings and sculptures celebrating American life in the first half of the 20th century. The exhibition will be on view from September 13 to November 12, 2000. Exploring farm and factory, jazz and street life, and workers and mothers, American artists captured the carefree exhilaration of the Roaring Twenties, the stark drama of the Great Depression, the common cause of the war years, and the new confidence of the years following World War II.

Edward Hopper, probably the most well known artist in the exhibition, is the quintessential realist painter. In 1933 he said, My aim in painting has always been the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature. Whether depicting East Coast lighthouses or the diners, cafeterias and movie houses of New York City, Hopper imbued his compositions with a sense of loneliness and isolation. In addition to using dramatic contrasts of light and shadow to heighten the sense of mood, he frequently depicted a solitary figure in his paintings. Together these artistic devices conspired to create a foreboding quality, as in Cape Cod Morning. In this eerie yet compelling narrative scene, the female figure watches intently out the window as the gloomy wood in the background seems to encroach on the safety of the house.

In contrast to Hoppers work, Ralston Crawfords figureless composition, Buffalo Grain Elevators, celebrates the new industrialism that captured the imagination of many American artists in the early 20th century. Emphasizing the geometry of modern-day factories, Crawford contrasted the massive cylinders of the grain elevators lining Buffalos waterfront with the delicate bridges and wires.

According to Elizabeth Broun, Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The idea of painting the common man and daily life was new at the turn of the 20th century. Artists moved away from the elegance and formality of the Gilded Age and began presenting everyday people at work and at play. These energetic and often witty artworks seemed to symbolize the true strength of the nation.

On Wednesday, September 13th at 7:00 p.m., art historian Bill Kloss will give an opening lecture for Scenes of American Life. Kloss will discuss works by Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Andrew Wyeth and other American luminaries of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Kloss has lectured extensively on the Smithsonian American Art Museums permanent collection and is the author of Treasures from the National Museum of American Art. A reception will follow the lecture. Please note that this opening will be held on a Wednesday rather than a Tuesday. Scenes of American Life: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum is one of eight exhibitions in Treasures to Go, touring the nation through 2002. The Principal Financial Group is a proud partner in presenting these treasures to the American people.

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