The Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery celebrates the opening of two exhibits with a reception on Friday, September 18, from 5 to 7 pm in the atrium of Cohen Memorial Hall. On view through December 4, the exhibits are in conjunction with “Fall for the Arts” and Parents’ Weekend.
In honor of the centenary of World War I, Forging Identity—Imagining the Enemy: American Propaganda and the Great War features posters by some of the early twentieth century’s most accomplished artists and illustrators, including Howard Christy, Charles Dana Gibson, Charles Buckles Falls, Joseph Christian Leyendecker, and James Montgomery Flagg, who found their role in wartime by appealing to the hearts and minds of the American people. Their artwork, distributed nationwide for display in public spaces, defined patriotism and spread the news of the atrocities committed by enemies of the United States. Several of the posters carry traces of how and where they were actually used in Nashville, giving the exhibition a strong tie to local history.
Using images, the posters appealed to the emotions of those on the home front and directed their energies—to a recruiting station, a bank, a book drive, or a backyard garden. While lithographs were one part of a larger propaganda machine, they have endured in the memory of the Great War because of their artistic merit and their ability to stir the emotions of viewers a century later.
Forging Identity—Imagining the Enemy: American Propaganda and the Great War is organized by the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery and curated by Margaret F. M. Walker, art curator assistant. The exhibition is supported, in part, by the Ewers Gift for Fine Art.
Presented in honor of Mathew Ramsey, professor emeritus of history, Selma Freeman Ramsey and the Social Realist Tradition explores 150 years of art about city life, work, and community. The daughter of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Ramsey took a distinctly social-minded approach to her artwork of the 1930s, with a focus on the working class. Her art from this period, along with that of other social realists featured in the exhibition such as Reginald Marsh and Isabel Bishop, grew out of a tradition of exposing through art the lives of the downtrodden and those whom society tends not to see.
The exhibition features paintings, prints, and illustrations by Ramsey from the collection of her son, Mathew Ramsey, and related works. It places importance on the roots of Ramsey’s art, found in European Realism with Honoré Daumier’s popular caricatures and the urban-focused Ashcan School art of Kenneth Hayes Miller, George Bellows, Martin Lewis, and John Sloan. It also explores how this politically and socially charged movement took hold outside of the United States, particularly in Latin America, and still compels artists today.
Selma Freeman Ramsey and the Social Realist Tradition is presented in collaboration with the Class of 2019 Commons Reading, The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse. It is organized by the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery and curated by Joseph S. Mella, director.
The exhibits are free and open to the public, and gallery hours are Monday through Friday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 1-5 p.m. The Fine Arts Gallery is located in Cohen Memorial Hall, 1220 21st Avenue South, on the western edge of the Peabody College campus. Parking is available in Lot 95 outside Cohen Hall, off 21st Avenue South on Peabody campus and across from Medical Center East.
For more information, call the gallery (615.322.0605) or the curator’s office (615.343.1702); or visit vanderbilt.edu/gallery.
*World War I poster; and Selma Freeman Ramsey, Family at the Table, 1941