The American Scene: Prints and Drawings from the Schoen Collection

The Georgia Museum of Art developed an exhibition of American works on paper from the Jason Schoen Collection. This exhibition is a compilation of more than 100 prints and drawings from artists that represent the diversity of styles and subjects that encompassed American art from the 1930s through the 1950s. On view through September 27.

Douglass Parshall (1899–1990), Bathers, date unknown, color lithograph on paper

Often referred to as the “American Scene,” this important period in American art has not had as much exposure and attention as other periods. This exhibition allows for a closer examination of the variety of attitudes and issues that occupied American artists living during those tumultuous years of the Great Depression and World War II. The opportunity to examine first-rate examples of the work of many of America’s most influential artists of those decades is provided through this compilation.

The art on view touches on the very pulse of America with expressions that run the gamut from unrestrained appreciation of the beauty of place to wry commentary on the politics and culture of the time. The diversity of style and subject suggests the energy and creative spirit that defined those years. Enduring the hardships of the Great Depression, these American artists were stimulated by national programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and even when federal funding was not available, their passion for visually relating the many stories that characterized America was undaunted.

Paul Weller’s lithograph movingly captures the lonely and grim reality that Americans faced during the economic disaster of the Depression. Home offers a look at the struggle for survival. The Madonna-like mother and infant huddle beside a “Hoover-town” shack. It is made of a hodgepodge of signboards, corrugated tin and broken timbers and serves as their temporary shelter. Despite the grim circumstances that Weller portrays, the mother figure projects an aura of protectiveness for her child. She displays both dignity and self-worth through her clothing and manner. Weller’s sympathetic picture invites viewers to identify with his subjects and empathize with their troubles.

Douglass Parshall was taught to draw from an early age by his father, the landscape painter De Witt Parshall. He later studied in Boston and Paris. Early on, Douglass traveled with his family to many parts of the world, painting and learning from the varied museums they visited. In the 1930s, he supervised California artists as part of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. While Parshall produced lithographs in addition to oil paintings and watercolors, Bathers is unusual in his work. It takes human figures as its subject as opposed to the landscapes that he often painted. The bathers strongly reflect stylized statuary, especially classical Greek sculpture. Frozen in space as though carved from marble, these California sun worshippers contrast interestingly with the stark landscape of abstracted dunes, clouds and water, as if it is all part of a diorama.

The Columbus Museum features exhibitions of American art and regional history and includes a hands-on discovery gallery for children. Admission is free. The Museum is open 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Thursday; and 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and holidays. 1251 Wynnton Road, Columbus, GA 31906