By SARA DUKE and HARRY L. KATZ
Visitors to the Library of Congress this fall will have an unparalleled opportunity to view outstanding examples of realist graphic art.
The exhibition "Life of the People: Realist Prints and Drawings from the Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Collection, 1912-1948" features works on paper by leading North American artists. View the exhibition online.
Labor advocate and garment manufacturer Ben Goldstein, with the support of his wife, Beatrice, left to the Library of Congress a collection of American prints and drawings informed by a sympathy for the condition of working people. A native New Yorker, he collected over several decades works that stirred his personal interest in the city of his birth, the American people and the human condition. His concerns encompassed a broad spectrum of social and political issues that touched on life in urban centers and in rural areas, American labor and industry, and the experience and achievements of minority groups.
Along with landmark images in the history of American political art, Ben Goldstein assembled outstanding holdings of works by creators who shared his social concerns. Among these artists were women, African Americans and the Mexican muralists who were so influential at the time. The collection is particularly rich in images from the 1930s, when the turmoil and uncertainty of the Depression led increasing numbers of artists to turn toward socially relevant subject matter. Their images include moving portraits, scathing satires, haunting images of social ills and more lighthearted depictions of life in the first half of the 20th century.
The collection represents the legacy of realist artists Robert Henri, John Sloan and Thomas Hart Benton, under whom many of the artists in the exhibition studied and who stood as advocates of representational art. These artists rejected abstraction -- in spite of its growing influence in America -- as irrelevant and inaccessible. Their empathetic depictions of ordinary men and women enduring or enjoying their everyday lives expressed the pain and rare pleasures experienced by Americans during a period that witnessed two world wars and a devastating economic depression. Artists used their art to fight for civil rights and against social or economic injustice. In a time of almost universal hardship their images conveyed understanding. These prints and drawings let people know for a moment that they were not alone.
From the diverse wealth of images, themes and techniques represented in the Goldstein Collection, 59 prints and drawings, including notable works by such major figures as Diego Rivera, Stuart Davis, Thomas Hart Benton, John Sloan, George Bellows, and Isabel Bishop, as well as the work of such lesser-known artists as Blanche Grambs, Elizabeth Olds, Lamar Baker and Prentiss Taylor, have been selected.
More information on the Library of Congress's print and drawing collections is available through the Swann Foundation's Web site: www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/swannhome.html, by e-mailing: [email protected], or by calling Sara Duke, Curatorial Project Assistant at (202) 707-9115 or Harry Katz at (202) 707-8696.
"Life of the People: Realist Prints and Drawings from the Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Collection, 1912-1948," curated by Harry L. Katz, the Library's curator of popular and applied graphic art, opens Oct. 20 and closes Jan. 29, 2000. View the exhibition online. The gallery, located adjacent to the Great Hall in the Jefferson Building, is open to the public free of charge from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. An exhibition catalog with essays by Garnett McCoy and Bernard F. Reilly Jr. and edited by Mr. Katz is available for sale in the Library's Sales Shops.
Ms. Duke is curatorial project assistant for cartoon and caricature in the Prints and Photographs Division. Mr. Katz is the division's curator for popular and applied graphic art.