Social Realism

Realism in the United States took a hard look at the nation's political and social conditions.

c. 1930 - 1945

videos + essays

We're adding new content all the time!

Vertis Hayes, <i>Juke Joint</i>
Vertis Hayes, Juke Joint

This swaying juke joint belies its purpose as the central meeting place enlivened by music and dance in many African American communities, but its jubilance is tempered by the painting's ominous atmosphere

Ben Shahn, <em>Contemporary American Sculpture</em>
Ben Shahn, Contemporary American Sculpture

Ben Shahn's painting asks: Who belongs in the art world?

Vertis Hayes, <em>The Lynchers</em>
Vertis Hayes, The Lynchers

A horrifying painting of racial violence that can help us see where we are and where we need to be in terms of tolerance and empathy

Josiah McElheny on Horace Pippin
Josiah McElheny on Horace Pippin

Contemporary artist discusses Horace Pippin as a so-called "outsider" artist and the importance of his perspective into every-day American life

Horace Pippin, <em>Mr. Prejudice</em>
Horace Pippin, Mr. Prejudice

A black painter confronts white supremacy amidst the two world wars.

Elsie Driggs, <em>Blast Furnaces</em>
Elsie Driggs, Blast Furnaces

Finding beauty in American industry

Ben Shahn, Miners’ Wives
Ben Shahn, Miners’ Wives

An explosion in a mine kills 111, Shahn captures the devastation of those left behind.

Reginald Marsh, <em>Wooden Horses</em>
Reginald Marsh, Wooden Horses

According to the artist (Reginald Marsh), at Coney Island, “The best show is the people themselves.”

Romare Bearden, <em>Factory Workers</em>
Romare Bearden, Factory Workers

During World War II, racism flourished the United States even as the war effort sought to bring people together.

Todros Geller, <em>Strange Worlds</em>
Todros Geller, Strange Worlds

Geller captures the tensions of the Jewish immigrant experience in the early 20th-century United States.

Grant Wood, Parson Weems’ Fable
Grant Wood, Parson Weems’ Fable

Wood infuses a famous folktale about George Washington with theatricality, humor, and a Gilbert Stuart sample.

Norman Rockwell, <em>Rosie the Riveter</em>
Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter

Representing women who entered the workforce during WWII, Rosie is strong, determined, and eating a ham sandwich.

Selected Contributors