Disillusionment in 1970s America

Is he real? Duane Hanson's Executive

Duane Hanson, Executive, originally titled, Another Day, 1971, polyester resin and fiberglass, oil paint, mixed media with accessories, life size (Toledo Museum of Art, © estate of the artist). Speakers: Dr. Halona Norton-Westbrook, Toledo Museum of Art and Dr. Steven Zucker

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Key Points

  • Amid rapid social changes, Vietnam War protests, debates on gender roles, and civil rights, the stability of middle class American life during the 1950s gave way to a period of disillusionment and uncertainty by the 1970s.
  • In this highly realistic sculpture, Duane Hanson creates an archetypical businessman, physically rooted in the dress and style of the early 1970s, and uses his posture and body to conjure the mental and emotional turmoil of the period. It is both a highly specific and universal image of midlife burdens and exhaustion.

Go deeper

This sculpture at the Toledo Museum of Art

Learn more about The Organization Man and its author, William Whyte

Read about the social turmoil of the 1960s

Explore more of Duane Hanson’s work

Learn about the rise of suburbs and the “Organization Man” through primary source documents

Read about youth culture and the antiwar movement in the 1960s

More to think about

Duane Hanson’s Executive was originally commissioned for the lobby of an office building. How do you think seeing the work in that space would be different than seeing it today in a museum?

Smarthistory images for teaching and learning:

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Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.