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Beginning September 10, 2019 | New Museum Hours

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​A Social Art: Mississippi Art in the Early 20th Century


Stringer, Mary Evelyn, (1921-2005), Gullies at Allisons Wells (detail), ca. 1950. watercolor on paper. Gift of the artist. Collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art. 2003.072

After the Civil War, the major cities in Mississippi struggled to recover economically. By the early 1900s, Jackson and Biloxi had begun to see some revitalization and, as a result, art societies and museums were established throughout the state. Artists living and working in Mississippi learned from established painters and, while many still traveled to New York, Philadelphia, and Europe to study and paint, their desire to depict the people and land around them was a significant step in Mississippi’s creative industry. Perhaps as a reaction to the extreme social unrest and economic devastation following the Civil War, much of the art produced by local artists during the early 20th century skirted sociopolitical issues. However, artists like Marie Hull felt it was important to depict African Americans in dignified representations, which was Hull’s way of protesting racial injustice in the state.

Selected from the Mississippi Museum of Art’s permanent collection, A Social Art comprises some of the Museum’s earliest regional paintings that came into the collection in the early 1900s. Prominent subject matter in the art produced in these early decades were the Southern landscape, interior scenes, and portraiture. From the vivid, painterly regional landscapes by Ellsworth Woodward and Mary Clare Sherwood to an emerging interest in abstraction through the beautifully fragmented work by Will Henry Stevens, the first half of the 20th century was a time when Southern artists began to make their mark on the art world.