Telling Tales: Narratives from the 1930s

  • Feb 25, 2012 – May 13, 2012
  • The Gregory D. Ivy Gallery, The Weatherspoon Guild Gallery
Edward Laning, "Coney Island Beach Scene", 1938, oil on canvas, 35 5/8 x
41 3/4 in. Gift of his family in honor of Mr. Benjamin Cone's 80th
birthday, 1980.

Did you know?

The 1930s saw great changes in America politically, socially, and aesthetically.  It was the decade in which President Herbert Hoover made the "Star Spangled Banner" America’s national anthem, the 1933 World’s Fair—called “A Century of Progress”— was held in Chicago, and Henry Ford established $5.00 per day as the minimum wage. The 1930s also saw the opening of San Francisco Bay’s Alcatraz maximum security prison where, for its first four years, prisoners were not allowed to talk, Babe Ruth hit his 700th home run, Billboard magazine published its first music hit parade, and Margaret Mitchell published her only book, Gone With the Wind.


Artists of all periods have used narrative imagery to teach, enlighten, and/or inspire viewers. Derived in the past from literature, Biblical scripture, mythology, or history, narrative art created during the 1930s continued to record these themes as well as the dramatic economic, social, and political changes that were taking place across the nation. Artists who advocated both representational and abstract styles attempted to capture the spirit of their age—a time marked by the bleak reality of the Great Depression as well as the uplifting optimism linked with the machine age and its promise of progress. While works by Social Realist and Regionalist artists—the art market’s dominant styles at the time—abound, images by other artists whose concerns were more psychologically penetrating are also included.      

The exhibition is organized by Elaine D. Gustafson, Curator of Collections.

Related programs:

Lecture: The Lusty Modern Matron • Sat Mar 31 @ 2pm

Noon @ the 'Spoon • Tue Apr 10 @ 12pm

We have six galleries located on the first and second levels of the museum, view our gallery map.