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!

Eldzier Cortor, <em>Southern Landscape</em>
Eldzier Cortor, Southern Landscape

A dream-like flooded landscape—does is suggest bleakness or hope?

Archibald John Motley Jr., <i>Nightlife</i>
Archibald John Motley Jr., Nightlife

Motley focuses on Black subjects in elegant portraits that conveyed power and self-agency during World War II

Hale Woodruff, <i>The Banjo Player</i>
Hale Woodruff, The Banjo Player

Woodruff reimagines racist tropes of Black banjo players with a figure who is confident and joyful

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

This swaying juke joint belies its purpose as a central meeting place enlivened by music and dance in many African American communities.

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.

Selected Contributors