Regional American painters of the ‘Dust Bowl Years’ find receptive audience in London

LONDON — This year, the Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair (June 18-28) hosted a special loan exhibition from the private collection of Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, ‘There’s No Place Like Home” — a curated show of works by celebrated American Regionalist artists. The collection’s first public exhibition outside of the U.S. offered the fair’s 29,500-strong audience an opportunity to view 44 important works by leading artists of the Regionalist genre, including Thomas Hart Benton, Joe

Joe Jones' painting

Joe Jones’ Missouri Farmer (Red Earth). (Submitted photos)

Jones, John Atherton, John Rogers Cox and Steuart Curry. Whilst well-known in their native U.S., these artists were a revelation for British audiences.

Dr. Cara Rodway, assistant head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, was moved by the show, stating it “offered an engaging overview of the Regionalist school, highlighting key actors in the field, methods, techniques and motivations. It was lovely to be able to see such a concentrated selection of American Regionalist paintings side-by-side. Putting the prints and paintings into dialogue with each other brought a rich impression of the scale and beauty of the Midwest to west London!”

Rex Sinquefield commented, “It is no surprise that my art collection includes European Impressionism and American Regionalism, as both genres respond to the themes that created their world through everyday scenes. It is this love of their homes, the people in their worlds and the landscapes they inhabited that resonates with me. Though my entire collection of art may not be academically understood as a whole by the experts, for me it is understood on a visceral level that connects me to home through memory, color and space. My greatest joy in learning the responses to the Americanist works is that I am not alone. The visitors at the Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair also connected with the collection through the universality of the messages of loving and protecting home.”

Andrew J. Walker, director of The Amon Carter Museum of American Art, adds, “What strikes me is the uniqueness of American scene painting within an international context. Though the work is intentionally regional, focusing on the life and experience of American communities in Missouri and elsewhere in the Midwest, the subjects do have a more global resonance, particularly during the years surrounding World War II. It is precisely within this context that a painting of wheat fields and workers captures the strength of the local to stand against tyranny.”

Visitors were struck by the lyricism and haunting beauty of the works on display, of which highlights include John Atherton’s surreal Industrial Landscape (1939) and Thomas Hart Benton’s famous self portrait which had previously graced the cover of Time Magazine. In its totality, the exhibition formed a wonderful introduction to the great American painters of the “Dust Bowl Years.”

Catherine Milner of the Financial Times commented, “I particularly admired the works by Thomas Hart Benton; a rare treat to see these beautiful and powerful works in the U.K. for the first time. The paintings and works on paper which comprise this exhibition are so indicative of the ‘American dream’ and it was an incredible opportunity to see so many important Regionalist works all under one roof. It is a real achievement for both Olympia and the curatorial team from the Rex Sinquefield collection that this exhibition has been staged in London.”

Susan Barrett, Sinquefield Art Curator, noted, “It’s the first time these works have been seen outside of the U.S., and we were delighted with the overwhelmingly positive response that the collection received from visitors to Olympia. It was wonderful to see how the exhibition challenged public preconceptions of ‘American art’, and indeed, to see visitors with such a keen interest in American Regionalism.”

painting by Benton

“Politics, Farming, and Law in Missouri,” by Thomas Hart Benton.

The collection has been very much the product of a long and lasting love of the genre by Rex Sinquefield and his wife Jeanne and has been assembled over many decades with the assistance of curator Susan Barrett.

Speaking about his collection in The American magazine this June, Rex Sinquefield neatly summarized the appeal of the Regionalist school; “the interest in the American countryside and the beauty and the mystery of the land is the common thread that ties my collection together. When I step back, I see an affirmation of my belief in America, the American Dream. With hard work, anything is possible.”

Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair is the U.K.’s largest and most established art and antiques fair, taking place annually in June at London’s iconic Kensington Olympia Exhibition Centre. Celebrating its 43rd year in 2015, Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair is recognized as one of the most prestigious and established fairs in the U.K., and an annual destination for more than 29,000 discerning and sophisticated international visitors.

The fair showcased 160 specialist dealers, presenting a wider choice of high quality, vetted art and antiques than any other fair in the capital. Featuring an eclectic mix of pieces drawn from antiquity to the present day, and with prices ranging from $112 to $1.13 million, Olympia is renowned as an unmissable event for private collectors, art industry professionals, dealers, property owners and interior decorators.

The 44th edition of the Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair will be returning at the end of June 2016. Visit www.olympia-art-antiques.com for more information.

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