After Many Springs Regionalism, Modernism, and the Midwest Debra Bricker Balken, Jeff Fleming

Publication date:
27 Mar 2009
Des Moines Art Center
208 pages: 235 x 159mm
25 b-w + 100 color illus.
Sales territories:


After Many Springs is the title of a Thomas Hart Benton painting that evokes nostalgia for a fertile, creative time gone by. This bold new book––taking the name of this work by Benton––examines the intersections between Regionalist and Modernist paintings, photography, and film during the Great Depression, a period when the two approaches to art making were perhaps at their zenith.


It is commonly believed that Regionalist artists Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood reacted to the economic and social devastation of their era by harking back in tranquil bucolic paintings to a departed utopia. However, this volume compares their work to that of photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn and filmmakers such as Josef von Sternberg—all of whom documented the desolation of the Depression—and finds surprising commonalities. The book also notes intriguing connections between Regionalist artists and Modernists Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston, countering prevailing assumptions that Regionalism was an anathema to these New York School painters and showing their shared fascination with the Midwest.

Debra Bricker Balken is an independent curator and scholar. Jeff Fleming is director of the Des Moines Art Center.

"Balken's writing is clear and builds upon her earlier work on modernists. . . . The footnotes are extremely useful and thorough." ?Patricia Kosco Cossard, Art Libraries Society of North America