The American Scene
of painting by
Gerrit V. Sinclair (1890-1955)
at Richard Norton Gallery
here in Chicago
leading me to ponder the disappearance
of this genre of painting.
Has the American scene itself vanished ?
Or have painters just stopped painting it ?
I suspect it's just that the contemporary artworlds
tend to ignore it.
The highbrow is ashamed of America,
and the middle brow
mostly wants to look at cowboys and Indians.
Don't you love the above scene ?
It's as tight as a Giotto fresco,
but instead of saints on the way to Jerusalem,
it's kids on the way to church, school, or somewhere.
I really like this guy,
depicting himself here
in his Paris studio
(he only lived there a year)
He was proud to be painter,
.... and also a father.
This was his view of the Louvre
... as kind of a scary place
where the Addams family might live.
And of course it's scary.
Everything about European history is scary
to a middle class person
from the Midwest
Here he is back at home,
looking at "th Beer Line"
pulling into Milwaukee
What a fine way to pass the day.
and who would know more about a painting class
than the person who spend his entire career
(35 years at the Layton School of Art)
Yes -- it's sweet and charming.
But it's not just a corny illustration.
It's energies are resolved.
So it is also a painting.
Here we have Midwesterners at the beach.
A sturdy lot -- not especially sensual
in their near-nudity.
And I'm doubting whether Sinclair ever painted the nude
where he imagines a policeman looking over his shoulder,
nightstick ready for action
(and the artist is not even looking at the girl,
whose knees are held tightly together)
of a nice, clean upper Midwestern city
that might feel just a little oppressive
to it's stalwart citizens
Whatever happened to American Scene painting ?
Whatever happened to museums conceiving themselves
as centers for regional art?
The two questions are the same.