It’s easy to forget how bad things were when President Franklin Roosevelt said, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ Wall Street executives were jumping from office windows, prosperous middle-class families were driven to the streets, and the entire fabric of American society seemed to be unraveling. Artists who didn’t confront the troubles of the day, who focused on nature or made colorful abstractions, were considered trivial and unpatriotic.
The tradition of ‘art with a conscience’–art that’s meant to open our eyes and change the world&nash;truly came into its own in the tumult and ferment of the first half of the twentieth century. The Michener Art Museum is fortunate to have in its collection many fine examples of paintings and works on paper that both celebrate daily life and reveal the plight of the homeless and the hungry. This exhibition honors the artists who created these works and the generous collectors who made it possible for us all to see them. The show samples works from several important gifts and bequests, including paintings from the collections of John Horton; Lee and Barbara Maimon; Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest; and Seymour Millstein.
Also included are a few examples of more abstract and modernist works by Bucks County painters Charles Ramsey and B. J. O. Nordfeldt.