Social Realism

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

c. 1930 - 1945

videos + essays

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Elsie Driggs, Blast Furnaces
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.

Grant Wood, <em>American Gothic</em>
Grant Wood, American Gothic

Though often thought of as a simple image of American values, this painting resists easy interpretation.

Ben Shahn, <em>The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti</em>
Ben Shahn, The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti

Shahn makes an not-so-subtle comparison between Christ and two Italians executed for a crime they didn’t commit.

Jacob Lawrence, <em>The Migration Series</em>
Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series

Lawrence carefully documents the migration of African Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North.

Edward Hopper, <em>Nighthawks</em>
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks

Hopper gives us a window into the urban isolation and anxiety of WWII-era New York.

Selected Contributors