American Narrative Painting in the Twentieth Century

That American Art is synonymous in the public mind with abstraction and painterliness for its own sake; that Abstract Expressionism cannot be understood without recourse to subject matter. That in reacting against European modes of imagemaking, there came into being an eccentric figure drawing style with strong narrative possibilities.That the career of Philip Gaston exactly mirrors the promise and failures of American painting as it tried to define those narrative possibilities.

1. Some surprising Artists.

1.1 Paul Cadmus ; b.1904,
1.2 George Tooker; b.1920, studied under Marsh, Cadmus and Kenneth Hayes Miller.
1.3 Jared French ; b. 1905.
1.4 Peter Blume , b.1906.
1.5 Marvin Cone 1891-1965;
1.6 Clarence Holbrook Carter , b.1904.
1.7 Robert Riggs 1897- 1970;
1.8 Hananiah Harari, b.1905; being figurative and non-figurative at the same time.
1.9 Alexander Hogue , b.1898;

Regionalist Masters ;

Grant Wood,
Thomas Hart Benton,
John Steuart Curry,
Paul Sample.

Figure Painters ;

Reginald Marsh,
Ben Shahn,
Jacob Lawrence,
Philip Evergood,
Andrew Wyeth.

Trompe L'Oeil

Peto and Harnett

Other narrative painters you should know about ;


Edward Hopper,
Charles Sheeler,
Charles Demuth.

see also artist illustrators working for the ads

Themes of the Lecture ;

The impact of the city and its technology.
The tension with the agricultural.
The depiction of the body despite the Ecole de Paris and the influence of Europe.
The sensuality of the American figurative and the influence of gay artists.
The satirical intent of American Art versus the dramatic narrative of the Mexican muralists (Rivera, Siquieros).


I have used for the Lecture.

Belisario Contreras, Tradition and Innovation in New Deal Art , Assoc.Univ.Press, London 1983.

Carey and Griffiths, ex.catal., American Prints 1879-1979 ,British Museum, London, 1980.

Milton Brown (ed),, The Modern Spirit, American Painting 1908-1935, ACGB London 1977.

Apollo Magazine, March 1981, entire issue on "American Realists" .

M.S.Young, American Realists, Homer to Hopper, Galahad, NY, 1977.

Heller and Williams, Painters of the American Scene ,Galahad, NY, 1982.

J.Wechsler, Surrealism and American Art, Rutgers Univ.Art Gallery, 1977., American Art 1934-1956, selections from the Whitney Museum, Montgomery, Ala., 1978.

Karen Tsujimoto, Images of America, Precisionist Painting and Modern Photography, Univ.of Washington Press, London, 1982.

Hills and Tarbell, The Figurative Tradition and the Whitney Museum of American Art ,Whitney, NY, 1980.

Buckley and Agee, The Ebsworth Collection; American Modernism 1911 - 1947 ,St.Louis Art Museum, 1988.

Nygren and Marzio, American Figurative Art from the Corcoran Gallery. Smithsonian, Wash.,1981.

Matthew Baigell, The American Scene, American Painting of the 1930's, Praeger, NY, 1974.

Lincoln Kerstein, Paul Cadmus, Imago, NY 1984.

Thomas H.Garver, George Tooker ,Rizzoli, NY, 1985.

F.A.Trapp, Peter Blume ,Rizzoli, NY 1987.

J.Czestochowski, Marvin Cone ,Dutton, NY, 1985.

Trapp, Dreisshpoon, Pau-Llosa, Clarence Holbrook Carter, Rizzoli, NY, 1989.

Ben Bassham, The Lithographs of Robert Riggs , Art Alliance, Phil., 1986.

Lea DeLong, Nature's Forms/Nature's Forces, The Art of Alexander Hogue ,Univ.of Oklahoma Press, 1984/5.

McGrath and Glick, Paul Sample, Painter of the American Scene ,, Dartmouth College, 1988.

Lloyd Goodrich, Edward Hopper, Abrams, NY, 1971.

Gail Levin, Edward Hopper as Illustrator, Whitney, NY, 1979.

The Prints of Reginald Marsh ,Potter, NY 1976.

Barbara Haskell , Charles Demuth ,Whitney/Abrams, NY 1988.

Wanda Corn, Grant Wood, The Regionalist Vision ,Yale Univ.Press, London, 1984.

Lincoln Rothschild, To Keep Art Alive, Kenneth Hayes Parker ,Art Alliance Press, Phil., 1974.