Sources on the American Scene:
An Annotated Bibliography
For the benefit of readers desiring to learn more about the art and artists of the American Scene, we offer the following list of published materials which we have found to be useful resources for background and research on the American Scene movement. The list excludes art surveys and general museum catalogues which, while often containing helpful biographical material on specific artists of the American Scene, address substantially broader periods and a wider range of American art movements. With one exception, we have also omitted monographs on specific artists, although we refer you to our artist pages for references pertinent to the artists in our collection. The sources marked with an asterisk are the ones we’d choose to bring with us to the proverbial desert island.
Books, Articles and Online Resources Relating to this Collection
Hittner, Arthur D., "A Regionalist Masterpiece Deconstructed: Unraveling the Mysteries behind a 1939 Society Portrait," Fine Art Connoisseur, November/ December, 2008, pp. 74-76. The story behind the painting Katharine (Portrait of Katharine Bigelow Higgins) by Umberto Romano.
Hittner, Arthur D., “Art of the Thirties: Rediscovered Masters of the American Scene,” https://www.incollect.com/articles/art-of-the-thirties. This is the online version of an article that appeared in Antiques & Fine Art, Autumn/Winter 2009, pp. 166-171.
Hittner, Arthur D., Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse (Apple Ridge Press, 2017). Love, art and baseball collide with racism, anti-Semitism and the inevitability of war in this tale of an emerging young artist in the New York art world of the late 1930s. Inspired by the life of Harold J. Rabinovitz, featuring such artists as Reginald Marsh, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Edward Laning, Mary Fife and Edward Hopper and the paintings Eventide and Place in the Sun. A breezy but informative antidote to the more sober publications listed in this Bibliography.
*Hittner, Arthur D., At the Threshold of Brilliance: The Brief but Splendid Career of Harold J. Rabinovitz (The Rabinovitz Project, 2017). A brief biography and extensive catalogue raisonne on the life and work of the painter represented in this collection by Eventide.
Hittner, Arthur D., "Searching for Harold Rabinovitz," Fine Art Connoisseur, August, 2014, pp. 55-60. An account of the research revealing the rich history surrounding the painting Eventide by Harold J. Rabinovitz.
Hittner, Arthur D., "The Art of the One-Hit Wonder," Fine Art Connoisseur, July/August, 2020, pp. 108-109. Ruminations about unexpected masterpieces by obscure artists, featuring Jackhammer by Nunzio La Spina and Pursuit of Happiness by R.H. Williams.
Hittner, Arthur D. and George V. Speer, Enduring America: Selections from the Collection of Art and Peggy Hittner (Northern Arizona University Art Museum, 2015). An exhibition catalogue produced by NAU Art Museum accompanying the exhibition of most of the works in this collection which took place from April 7 to May 29, 2015, including introductory essays and commentary on each of the works exhibited. The two catalogue essays are also reproduced online in their entirety at http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/10aa/10aa522.htm. The first essay (by Hittner) is substantially similar to that appearing on the About page of this website; the essay by Dr. Speer, former Director of the NAU Art Museum, is particularly recommended for its fresh insights into many of the works in this collection.
O'Hern, John (photography by Francis Smith), "On the Scene: The collection of Arthur and Peggy Hittner centers on American paintings of the 1930s and '40s," American Fine Art Magazine, March/April, 2020, pp. 64-69. Interview and photo spread featuring a portion of the Hittner Collection.
Sublette, Mark, "Art Dealer Diaries, Episode 24: Art Hittner," video and podcast available online on YouTube. Extended interview of collector Art Hittner with Tucson art dealer Dr. Mark Sublette.
Baigell, Matthew, The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930’s (Praeger Publishers, 1974). One of the earliest significant retrospective treatments of the American Scene phenomenon.
Becker, Heather, Art for the People: The Rediscovery and Preservation of Progressive and WPA-Era Murals in the Chicago Public Schools, 1904-1943 (Chronicle Books, 2002). Beautifully illustrated survey of government-sponsored public school art in Chicago and recent efforts to preserve it.
Boswell, Peyton, Jr., Modern American Painting (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1940). Probably the first “coffee table” book on the American Scene movement, written by its leading contemporary proponent, Peyton Boswell, Jr., editor of Art Digest. Includes 89 color plates.
*Dijkstra, Bram, American Expressionism: Art and Social Change 1920-1950 (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2003). Lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched treatise on Social Realism.
Eldredge, Charles C., We Gather Together: American Artists and the Harvest (University of California Press, 2022). A wide-ranging investigation into the intersection of art, agriculture and American identity featuring numerous examples of American Regionalism.
Falk, Peter Hastings, editor-in-chief, Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975 (Sound View Press, 1999). This massive and invaluable three-volume biographical dictionary of American artists is often the best source for information regarding lesser-known artists of the American Scene. Falk’s Sound View Press has also published alphabetical indices to the annual American art exhibitions staged by the Corcoran Gallery, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Whitney Museum of American Art, National Academy of Design, Carnegie Institute and Chicago Institute of Art which are useful in tracking down exhibition histories for the works of American artists.
Gambone, Robert L., Art and Popular Religion in Evangelical America, 1915-1940 (University of Tennessee Press, 1989). An interesting book-length exploration of the influence of popular religion on the artists of the American Scene.
Gruskin, Alan D., Painting in the U.S.A. (Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1948). An in-period survey of the work of 125 contemporary American artists by the then director of New York City’s venerable Midtown Galleries.
Hall, W.S., Eyes on America: The United States as Seen by Her Artists (The Studio Publications Inc., 1939). A contemporary survey of the American Scene movement with many fine photographs, though mostly black-and-white.
Heller, Nancy and Julia Williams, Painters of the American Scene (Galahad Books, 1982). First published in 1976 as The Regionalists, this is another good early overview of the American Scene movement and its artists.
*Hemingway, Andrew, Artists on the Left: American Artists and the Communist Movement 1926-1956 (Yale University Press, 2002). An engaging exploration of the influence of the American Communist movement on Social Realist art.
*Long, Frank W., Confessions of a Depression Muralist (University of Missouri Press, 1997). A fascinating memoir of the trials and tribulations of an American artist during the Depression years, with emphasis on his activities under the aegis of the federal art programs of the New Deal.
McClelland, Gordon T. and Austin D. McClelland, California Scene Paintings (California Art: Information Center, 2013). A nicely illustrated catalogue focusing on the California variant of the American Scene movement with primary emphasis on works of the Thirties and Forties.
O'Connor, Francis V., ed., The New Deal Art Projects: An Anthology of Memoirs (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1972). An invaluable compendium of first-person accounts by artists, administrators and others involved in the New Deal art projects.
One Hundred Contemporary American Jewish Artists (YKUF Art Section, 1947). Obscure compendium of biographical sketches of prominent Jewish-American artists of the 1940s with examples of their work.
Pagano, Grace, Contemporary American Painting: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Collection (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1945). A catalogue of the significant collection of contemporary American art amassed during the mid-Forties by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. (an updated version, with several modifications, was published in 1946).
Park, Marlene and Gerald E. Markowitz, Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal (Temple University Press, 1984). An in-depth look at the post office mural commissions executed by artists under the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture between 1934 and 1943.
Sepeshy, Zoltan, Tempera Painting (American Studio Books, 1946). A brief but highly detailed analysis of the benefits and methodology of tempera painting as practiced by the painter of Tonight's Dinner in this collection.
Speer, George Van Cleve, Things of the Spirit: Art and Healing in the American Body Politic, 1929-1941 (Peter Lang, 2012). An academic investigation of the social forces affecting the American art of the Thirties and, in particular, the symbolism of the "embattled and recuperative body" associated with both art and the broader American culture.
*Stern, Jean, Windows in Time: California Scene Paintings from the Hilbert Collection (California Scene Press, 2015). Superb and voluminous catalogue of the extensive collection of Mark and Jan Hilbert with fine reproductions and excellent biographical essays. Many of the works are on view at the Hilbert Museum in Orange, California.
Westphal, Ruth and Janet Blake Dominik, eds., American Scene Painting: California, 1930s and 1940s (Westphal Publishing, 1991). The American Scene as played out in California, including much material on the so-called California Scene watercolorists.
A Time of Toil and Triumph: Selections from the Shogren-Meyer Collection of American Art (Grohmann Museum, 2022). Catalogue of an impressive private collection of American art of the Thirties and Forties featuring themes of labor and industry.
*American Art Today: New York World’s Fair (National Art Society, 1939). A very important and extensive catalogue of works of contemporary American artists exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.
Art for the People: WPA-Era Paintings from the Dijkstra Collection (Crocker Art Museum, 2023). Selections from the comprehensive collection of Sandy and Bram Dijkstra.
Barter, Judith A., ed., America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s (The Art Institute of Chicago, 2016). Catalogue (with essays) of an exceptional exhibition of American art of the Thirties.
Burdan, Amanda C., et al, Rural Modern: American Art Beyond the City (Skira Rizzoli in association with Brandywine River Museum of Art, 2016). Lavish catalogue of exhibition mounted in 2016-17 at the Brandywine River Museum of Art and High Museum of Art which included Edward Firn's County Fair from this collection.
*Berardi, Marianne, Under the Influence: The Students of Thomas Hart Benton (The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, 1993). A well-researched catalogue featuring biographical information and artworks produced by artists who studied under Thomas Hart Benton, including Daniel Celentano and Joseph Meert.
Brown, Milton, Social Art in America: 1930-1945 (A.C.A. Galleries, 1981). An early loan exhibition reexamining a broad range of American painting from the Thirties and early Forties (includes entries on Reisman and Turnbull along with many others).
*Coming Home: American Paintings 1930-1950 from the Schoen Collection (Georgia Museum of Art, 2003). This outstanding 339-page, large-format book catalogues what is probably the most extensive private collection of American Scene painting in the country.
Contemporary Art of the United States (The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1940). Catalogue for a 1940 exhibition of paintings from the corporate collection of International Business Machines featuring one contemporary work from each state.
Dijkstra, Bram, Art of the WPA Era From Collections of the San Diego Region (Oceanside Museum of Art, 2006). Brief catalogue features an outstanding essay on the art of the period by Bram Dijkstra.
Hall, Michael D. and Pat Glascock, Great Lakes Muse: American Scene Painting in the Upper Midwest, 1910-1960 (The Flint Institute of Arts, 2003). An important regional study of the American Scene movement featuring the Inlander Collection.
Hills, Patricia, Social Concern and Urban Realism: American Painting of the 1930s (Boston University Art Gallery, 1983). Good essay and informative catalogue entries on the works of 41 artists identified as Social Realists and/or Urban Realists (includes Celentano and Reisman).
Industry, Work, Society, and Travails in the Depression Era: American Paintings and Photographs from the Shogren-Meyer Collection (Hillstrom Museum of Art, 2019). Nearly 100 informative entries featuring paintings and photographs by about 60 artists and photographers from the Depression era.
Jones, Barbara L. with Judith Hansen O’Toole, Painting in the United States 2008 (Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 2008). Features a selection of works which had appeared in annual exhibitions of American art at the Carnegie Museum of Art during the period from 1943 through 1949.
Kennedy, Elizabeth, ed., Chicago Modern 1893-1945: Pursuit of the New (Terra Museum of American Art, 2004). Includes extensive treatment of Chicago’s interpretation of the American Scene.
*Kleeblatt, Norman L. and Susan Chevlowe, eds., Painting a Place in America: Jewish Artists in New York 1900-1945 (The Jewish Museum, 1991). Investigates the contribution of Jewish artists to the American Scene and other American art movements of the first half of the twentieth century.
Milk and Eggs: The American Revival of Tempera Painting, 1930-1950 (Brandywine River Museum, 2002). An interesting analysis of the movement by a wide range of artists of the Thirties and Forties to return to the Renaissance tradition of painting with egg tempera.
Moure, Nancy, Scenes of California Life, 1930-1950 (Todd Madigan Gallery, California State University, 1991). Catalogue of an exhibition of California Scene paintings (mostly watercolors) with an excellent essay by Nancy Moure.
Park, Marlene and Gerald E. Markowitz, New Deal for Art (Gallery Association of New York State, Inc., 1977). An exhibition exploring the various art programs of the New Deal.
Peterson, Brian H., Painting the People: Images of American Life from the Maimon Collection (James A. Michener Art Museum, 2009). A brief but well illustrated catalogue of a fine American Scene collection.
*Phagan, Patricia, ed., The American Scene and the South: Paintings and Works on Paper, 1930-1946 (Georgia Museum of Art, 1996). An important regional interpretation of the American Scene movement.
Pierotti, Julie Novarese, Regional Dialect: American Scene Paintings from the John and Susan Horseman Collection (Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 2008). Catalogue documenting a touring exhibition drawn from a distinguished private collection.
Pikes Peak Vision: The Broadmoor Art Academy, 1919-1945 (The Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, 1989). Focuses primarily on Regionalist works by artists associated with the Broadmoor Art Academy art colony centered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Pohl, Frances K., In the Eye of the Storm: An Art of Conscience, 1930-1970 (Pomegranate Artbooks, 1995). Catalogue highlighting selections of often powerful social realist art from the collection of Philip J. and Suzanne Schiller.
Prelinger, Elizabeth, Scenes of American Life: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Watson-Guptill Publications, 2001). Features a selection of American Scene works from the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection.
Precisionism in America 1915-1941: Reordering Reality (Abrams/The Montclair Art Museum, 1994). An important early study of the Precisionist movement.
Schwartz, Constance and Franklin Hill Perrell, American Realism between the Wars: 1919—1941 (Nassau County Museum of Art, 1994). Contains useful essays and examples of American art of the inter-war period.
Schwartz, Constance and Franklin Hill Perrell, curators, F.D.R. and the WPA Era: Art Across America (Nassau County Museum of Art, 2004). Exhibition and essay investigating the influence of the New Deal on American art.
Seeds of the Past: The Keith Kissee Collection (The Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, 2010). Catalogue of a private collection of American Scene art in which Southern artists are particularly well represented.
Stearns, Robert, et. al., eds., Illusions of Eden: Visions of the American Heartland (Arts Midwest, 2000). Exhibition surveying the visual arts of the Midwest, with an emphasis on the inter-war period.
Stewart, Rick, Lone Star Regionalism: The Dallas Nine and Their Circle (Texas Monthly Press, 1985). The American Scene legacy, Texas-style.
*Wagner, Ann Prentice, 1934: A New Deal for Artists (Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2009). A sumptuous catalogue documenting the Smithsonian's exhibition of fifty-five paintings created in 1934 by artists participating in the Public Works of Art Project and related federal artist relief programs.
*Wooden, Howard E., American Art of the Great Depression: two sides of the coin (Wichita Art Museum, 1985). A groundbreaking essay on the art of the Depression, with numerous black-and-white reproductions.
Wooden, Howard E., The Neglected Generation of American Realist Painters: 1930-1948 (Wichita Art Museum, 1981). Together with the previous entry, a catalyst for the promotion of awareness and scholarship on American art of this period.
Some Final Thoughts
To get a sense for the quality and variety of American art produced during the Thirties and Forties, there is no better source than the periodical Art Digest. The works of contemporary American artists were routinely reproduced in this well respected periodical which also contained lively accounts of the trials and tribulations of American artists during this turbulent period. Bound volumes of this publication are available in many larger libraries.
Also highly recommended are brief catalogues (mostly published during the 1990s) featuring work of the Thirties and Forties issued by New York City art dealers D. Wigmore and the late Janet Marqusee and the voluminous resources available (some online) at the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art.