FOR the first time in our history, American painters as a group are conscious of themselves as independent creative workers and of their country in the character that it assumes when seen from their familiar cities, towns, or rural communities. The provincial atmosphere of farms and prairies, logging camps, cattle ranches, and cotton plantations has been taken into account as painting material. So have economic conditions which violate a sense of social justice and create tension and an atmosphere of anxiety throughout large parts of the population. A desire to understand and represent these things in a readily comprehensible manner comes out in some of the work.
But in pictures that are being painted all over the country and that are lifting American art to a new level of unquestioned excellence there is a broader, unifying character--a kind of all-embracing regionalism, but one that needs redefining. Instead of a few metropolitan centers, there are now many widely distributed geographical areas that boast educated artists and that furnish these artists with subjects for their pictures.
Regionalism has been one of the most significant facts in the national life since about 1900, when the population flow to metropolitan centers was reversed, by electrification and other economic facts, and the decentralization process begun by which people have been redistributed throughout the country and standards of taste and culture spread accordingly. Rural colleges and state universities often assume leadership in educational experiment, including art education.