social realism

social realist.
a style of painting, esp. of the 1930s in the U.S., in which the scenes depicted typically convey a message of social or political protest edged with satire.

* * *

Trend in U.S. art, originating с 1930, toward treating themes of social protest
poverty, political corruption, labour-management conflict
in a naturalistic manner.

The movement was stimulated in part by the Ash Can school, the Great Depression, and the New Deal's arts patronage programs, including the WPA Federal Art Project. Works in this vein include Ben Shahn's Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti (1931–32) and William Gropper's The Senate (1935).

* * *

      trend in American art originating in about 1930 and referring in its narrow sense to paintings treating themes of social protest in a naturalistic or quasi-expressionist manner. In a broader sense, the term is sometimes taken to include the more general renderings of American life usually categorized as American Scene painting and Regionalism, which may or may not manifest socially critical comment.

      The origins of Social Realism lie in the Ashcan School painters, who in the first decades of the 20th century depicted the commonplace, gritty, and unglamorous realities of city life. John Sloan, Robert Henri, George Bellows, and George Luks were prominent members of this diverse group who painted scenes from everyday life. Later, Reginald Marsh (Marsh, Reginald), though not a member of the Ashcan School, continued this tradition, taking lower Manhattan and the Bowery as his themes.

      The advent of the Great Depression in 1929 and the enactment of the New Deal's programs beginning in 1933 stimulated a broad trend toward sociopolitical commentary in American painting. The vast expansion of job patronage by the federal government spilled over into the arts; with the support of the Works Progress (later Projects) Administration (WPA (Works Progress Administration)), the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), and the Treasury Department, many artists in the 1930s were commissioned to decorate public buildings with murals dealing with American subject matter. Many American artists during the 1930s were also influenced by the politically conscious and sometimes overtly propagandistic works of the Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco. George Biddle's “Sweatshop” (c. 1935), a study for a fresco in the Justice Department Building, Washington, D.C., is a notable example of such American public decorations, and one of the few to have survived intact.

      In the Depression era American painters began to grapple more openly with such themes as joblessness and poverty, political corruption and injustice, labour–management conflict, and the excesses of American materialism. Works in this vein by Ben Shahn (Shahn, Ben), Philip Evergood, William Gropper (Gropper, William), and Jack Levine (Levine, Jack), all of whom worked for the WPA, are notable for their overt and sometimes scathing pictorial criticisms of American society. Shahn's painting “The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti” (1931–32; Whitney Museum of American Art) is a bitter comment on the outcome of the famous case in which two Italian anarchists were condemned to death in a politically motivated trial. A good example of William Gropper's powerfully simplified caricatures of American public life is “The Senate” (1935; Museum of Modern Art, New York City). Jack Levine evolved a more sophisticated expressionist technique for portraying what he viewed as the degradation of certain aspects of the national scene, a technique exemplified in “The Feast of Pure Reason” (1937; Museum of Modern Art).

      Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, John Steuart Curry, Edward Hopper, and other Regionalist painters all dealt with everyday life in their works, but in a romanticized way that was basically incompatible with explicit social protest or criticism.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Social realism — Social Realism, also known as Socio Realism, is an artistic movement, expressed in the visual and other realist arts, which depicts working class activities. Many artists who subscribed to Social Realism were painters with socialist (but not… …   Wikipedia

  • social realism —    or Social Realism    A type of realism which is more overtly political in content, critical of society, marked by its realistic depiction of social problems. Paintings by Jean François Millet (French, 1814 75), a painter associated with the… …   Glossary of Art Terms

  • social realism — noun the realistic depiction in art of contemporary life, as a means of social or political comment …   English new terms dictionary

  • social realism — /soʊʃəl ˈriəlɪzəm/ (say sohshuhl reeuhlizuhm) noun a movement in American painting, originating in the depression of the 1930s, and involving the artistic representation of contemporary social and political life, usually from a left wing… …   Australian English dictionary

  • social realism — noun : a theory or practice (as in painting) of using appropriate representation and symbol to express a social or political attitude …   Useful english dictionary

  • Realism — Realism, Realist or Realistic may refer to:The arts*Realism (arts), the depiction of subjects as they appear in everyday life *Realism (dramatic arts), a movement towards greater fidelity to real life *Realism (visual arts), a style of painting… …   Wikipedia

  • Realism (visual arts) — Realism is a visual art style that depicts the actuality of what the eyes can see. Realists render everyday characters, situations, dilemmas, and objects, all in verisimilitude. They tend to discard theatrical drama, lofty subjects and classical… …   Wikipedia

  • Social Realist — Social Realist, a follower or supporter of Social Realism …   Useful english dictionary

  • realism — /ree euh liz euhm/, n. 1. interest in or concern for the actual or real, as distinguished from the abstract, speculative, etc. 2. the tendency to view or represent things as they really are. 3. Fine Arts. a. treatment of forms, colors, space, etc …   Universalium

  • realism — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ political ▪ gritty, stark ▪ the stark realism of Loach s films ▪ literary ▪ magic …   Collocations dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.