While the aesthetics of art in the 1930s were often more modern and abstract than they are today, there was still a sense of freedom in the art of this decade. In addition to this, the underlying economic climate was bleak and many artists were unemployed. Luckily, the art of the 1930s was surprisingly democratic, despite this. Let’s look at some examples. Let’s start with the Art Students League. Founded in 1875, the Art Students League offered greater freedom than the National Academy of Design. The League had no entrance requirements or tests, and students were free to study with whomever they wanted. John Sloan taught at the League from 1916 until 1930.
During this time, the political and social climate of the world shifted dramatically. Paris and Berlin were no longer the cultural arbiters, but power and energy shifted to New York and a new generation of American artists changed the scale of modern painting. In Europe, modern art revived only haltingly. The Cold War and the rise of fascism in the Soviet Union had narrowed social horizons and made optimism seem foolish and subversive. In Italy, meanwhile, a divide developed between abstract and realist artists. Lucio Fontana supported fascism in the 1930s.
In the 1930s, American artists embraced Social Realism, a mode of representation that gained wide meaning in the anthology cited above. These artists believed that their work became realistic by engaging in social, political, and economic issues. This means that the artists themselves sought social justice. The art of the 1930s illuminates and reveals this struggle for social justice. If you are interested in the artistic movements of this period, consider this article!