Regionalism – the unofficial style of Depression-era art projects

Two Regionalist works by noted 20th Kansas City Art Institute alumni will be auctioned by Selkirk Auctioneers and Appraisers on July 16, 2022 to benefit Bread & Roses Missouri. See the catalogue links below for details!

Join us for a complimentary Auction Preview Reception on July 15th

Regionalism in American Art

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Regionalism became the unofficial style of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Federal Art Project, and the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture, all of which provided employment for artists through mural and painting commissions.

Regionalism was an American art movement that emerged in the Midwest in the early 1930s and continued into the early 1940s. At the height of the movement in the 1930s, Regionalist artists drew most of their subject matter and inspiration from local traditions such as the Midwestern farm landscape and the history of the native Midwest region. Regionalism’s propensity towards traditional American values and lifestyles became especially popular during the Great Depression as a symbol of the strength and endurance of the American people.  [Source Chapman University]

JOHN STOCKTON DE MARTELLY | American, 1903-1979
Looking at the Sunshine | See Auction Catalogue – lot 194

John de Martelly was born in 1903 in Philadelphia and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, in Florence, Italy, as well as the Royal College of Art in London. In the 1930s and 1940s, he taught printmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute to the same students who studied painting with Thomas Hart Benton.

De Martelly became a close friend of Benton, and was influenced by his Regionalist style. When Benton was fired from the Art Institute, the Board of Governors offered de Martelly Benton’s job as head of the Painting Department. De Martelly was furious and quit. De Martelly’s lithographs, sold through the Associated American Artists Galleries in New York in the 1930s and 1940s, captured the essence of the rural American landscape.

In 1943, de Martelly began teaching at Michigan State University in East Lansing, where he was named artist-in-residence in 1946. By the late 1940s, de Martelly abandoned Regionalism for Abstract Expressionism and closely studied Daumier.

ERNEST HUBERT DEINES | American, 1894-1967
Joy on Kaw Valley Loam | See Auction Catalogue – lot 195

E. Hubert Deines (1894-1967) was born in a rural section of central Kansas, near Russell. Even at preschool age, before any kind of public instruction was available to him, he was enthusiastically making drawings of things imaginary or observed in a rustic scene. Later, after the usual educational courses, he attended the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design at Kansas City, Missouri. This art study period was interrupted during World War I by military service. After serving overseas with the 109th Engineers of the 34th Division, he spent some time in France. Under a special government arrangement for qualified servicemen, Deines studied at the famous Julian Academy in Paris.

Upon returning to the United States, he held a position for twelve years on the art staff of a metropolitan daily newspaper. Following newspaper work he established himself in a studio in the old, historic Westport district of Kansas City, Missouri, where for several years he carried on some book and magazine work that required both typographical knowledge and artistic execution. During these commercial assignments a long-desired ambition was also undertaken—to enter the field of Fine Arts. Printmaking had always been his underlying goal, and after many experiments in various media, gradually and by self-taught methods, wood engraving became his principal medium.