ExhibitionsOur Good Earth: Rural Life and American Art
Past Exhibition

Our Good Earth: Rural Life and American Art

April 17 – August 1, 2021

Since the nation’s founding, America’s national identity has been tied to rural life and the mythic figure of the humble yeoman farmer—a national icon credited with taming a vast nature. Even as the focus of American life drifted to the city from the farms, country ways remained a persistent subject of interest for artists.

Through a selection of prints, drawings and photographs from the High’s collection, this exhibition will explore the many ways in which Americans imagined and engaged with life beyond the city limits over the course of a century.

Works by artists ranging from Winslow Homer and Rhonda Nicholls in the nineteenth century to Thomas Hart Benton, Marion Greenwood, Clarence John Laughlin, Lewis Hine, and Andrew Wyeth in the twentieth century will offer various views of country life. The artworks also will foreground the diversity of the High’s collection to present a dynamic and varied picture of the complex and compelling story of the American pastoral.

This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Winslow Homer, The Last Days of Harvest, 1873

Winslow Homer
American, 1836–1910
The Last Days of Harvest, 1873
Woodcut on newspaper
Gift of John D. Hatch, 70.10

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Thomas Hart Benton, Threshing, 1941

Thomas Hart Benton
American, 1889–1975
Threshing, 1941
Lithograph on paper
Gift in memory of Alan R. Liederman from his children, 1991.84Thomas Hart Benton’s wide popularity stemmed from his choice of enduring subject—the charms and challenges of American rural life—and the accessible realist style that he used to convey it. These prints are each based on paintings that were made available as lithographs at broadly affordable prices through the Associated American Artists organization. Though often celebratory of country life, Benton’s imagery alluded to harder times, as well, in works such as The Fence Mender and Prodigal Son, which transforms the biblical story of loss into a Depression-era drama.

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Grant Wood, Fertility, 1939

Grant Wood
American, 1892–1942
Fertility, 1939
Lithograph on paper
Gift in memory of Alan R. Liederman from his children, 1991.95Hard times often were not on display in Grant Wood’s orderly Midwestern farm scenes. Well-tended fields and tidy barns are consistent features of this Iowa artist’s pictures. In this suite of four prints, Wood makes subtle reference to his most celebrated painting, a stoic (if sarcastic) portrayal of a farmer and his wife, known as American Gothic (1930). The picture’s famous white farmhouse appears in the distance in Fertility. These prints, which Wood made separately over time, collectively celebrate the land’s fertile potential with fields ready to sow or yielding bountiful harvest.

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Marion Greenwood, Mississippi Girl, 1945

Marion Greenwood
American, 1909–1970
Mississippi Girl, 1945
Lithograph on paper
Purchase with funds from the Lawrence and Alfred Fox Foundation for the Ralph K. Uhry Collection, 1991.152

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John S. de Martelly, Looking at the Sunshine, 1942

John S. de Martelly
American, 1903–1980
Looking at the Sunshine, 1942
Lithograph on paper
Gift of Carl and Marian Mullis, 1997.214

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Dox Thrash, Georgia Cotton Crop, 1944–1945

Dox Thrash
American, 1893–1965
Georgia Cotton Crop, 1944–1945
Carborundum mezzotint and etching on paper
Purchase with David C. Driskell African American Art Acquisition Fund, 2011.107Dox Thrash was one of the few African American artists appointed to oversee a regional division for the Federal Art Project in the 1930s. He was instrumental in the development of a new printmaking process. More efficient and economical than traditional methods, his carborundum method produced a broader range of tonal qualities, allowing for the deep, rich blacks that lent his work an ethereal effect. In this picture of a rural farm scene, he intentionally obscures fine detail. The subject is, in fact, a memory of his youth and his family’s sharecropper farm near Griffin, Georgia.

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Peter Sekaer, St. Clairesville, Ohio, 1936, printed ca. 1936

Peter Sekaer
American, born Denmark, 1901–1950
St. Clairesville, Ohio, 1936, printed ca. 1936
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the Peter Sekaer Estate, 2013.646As part of the New Deal initiatives launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat the economic devastation of the Depression, photographers were engaged by various government agencies to record circumstances across America. Photographers Arthur Rothstein and Peter Sekaer, among scores of others, made visible the tragedies and heroics they encountered in rural communities from Pennsylvania to California. Very little was off limits to their probing cameras. This collection of four pictures is typical of the subjects they sought to document—how people worked and lived and the routines of their daily lives.

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Andrew Wyeth, Study for The Quaker, 1975

Andrew Wyeth
American, 1917–2009
Study for The Quaker, 1975
Watercolor on paper
Gift of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth, 2006.60Andrew Wyeth filled his compositions with symbols that explore common themes of memory, nostalgia, and loss. Here, in seemingly silent conversation, two Revolutionary war–era suitcoats hang in the artist’s rural Pennsylvania studio. The eerie scene evokes the past in layers upon the present: the eighteenth-century coats hang on the mantel in a nineteenth-century schoolhouse, which Wyeth, in the twentieth century, converted into his workspace retreat. Through the window, a view into the wooded landscape offers only an insider’s clue to this otherwise disorienting, timeless picture.

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Gordon Parks, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama, 1956, printed 2012

Gordon Parks
American, 1912–2006
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama, 1956, printed 2012
Pigmented inkjet print
Gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation, 2014.386.4

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Dale Nichols, Company for Supper, undated

Dale Nichols
American, 1904–1995
Company for Supper, undated
Purchase with funds from the Lawrence and Alfred Fox Foundation for the Ralph K. Uhry Collection, 1991.204The idyllic, snowy world of Regionalist painter Dale Nichols charmed his mid-twentieth-century audiences. Nichols’s Midwestern farm scenes like Company for Supper have nostalgic appeal. Here, a sleigh pulls guests across the picturesque landscape while a cozy farmhouse and trim-looking barn in the distance offer a sense of warm serenity. With the snow settled into a blanket of white on the fields, the promise of a jovial gathering lies ahead.

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Luigi Lucioni, Summer Shadows, undated

Luigi Lucioni
American, born Italy, 1900–1988
Summer Shadows, undated
Etching on paper
Gift of Carl and Marian Mullis, 1994.174In 1931, Luigi Lucioni took a commission to paint a Vermont landscape. He was captivated by the region’s natural beauty and ultimately settled there. His precise, articulate, cheerful pictures reveal something of his love for his new home. The sun shines on these humble but tidy farmhouses of Lucioni’s Vermont. An immigrant from northern Italy, Lucioni claimed to feel a connection between these two rural places. The verdant countryside and majestic mountains of New England inspired memories of his first childhood home.

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Jamie Wyeth, Runaway Pig from The Farm Suite, ca. 1980

Jamie Wyeth
American, born 1946
Runaway Pig from The Farm Suite, ca. 1980
Etching and drypoint on wove paper
Gift of LaTrelle Brewster, 2009.5.3Jamie Wyeth (son of painter Andrew Wyeth) deftly employs etching and drypoint techniques to capture the varying textures and tones of animal fur, a bee’s hive, and a straw nest. Wyeth’s jarring close-up perspectives, dramatic shadowing, rich tonal qualities, and precise details elevate these humble subjects to near Old Master status. Featuring animals from around his homes in the rural Brandywine River Valley in eastern Pennsylvania and coastal Maine.

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Our Good Earth, 1942

John Steuart Curry
American, 1897–1946
Our Good Earth, 1942
Lithograph on paper
Gift in memory of Alan R. Liederman from his children, 1991.107

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Our Good Earth . . . Keep It Ours, 1942

John Steuart Curry
American, 1897–1946
Our Good Earth . . . Keep It Ours, 1942
100-line offset lithograph on paper
Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of Roger Genser–The Prints and the Pauper, 2001.83.

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Our Good Earth: Rural Life and American Art is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
This exhibition is made possible by

Premier Exhibition Series Sponsor

Exhibition Series Sponsor

Premier Exhibition Series Supporters

Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Dr. Joan H. Weens Estate

Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporters

Anne Cox Chambers Foundation
Robin and Hilton Howell

Ambassador Exhibition Supporters

The Antinori Foundation
Corporate Environments
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
Elizabeth and Chris Willett

Contributing Exhibition Series Supporter

Farideh and Al Azadi
Sandra and Dan Baldwin
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Marcia and John Donnell
Helen C. Griffith
Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
The Arthur R. and Ruth D. Lautz Charitable Foundation
Joel Knox and Joan Marmo
Margot and Danny McCaul
The Fred and Rita Richman Fund
In Memory of Elizabeth B. Stephens by Powell Stephens, Preston Stephens, and Sally Stephens Westmoreland
Mrs. Harriet H. Warren

Generous support is also provided by

Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund.