“The Pillars” by Abe Blashko, a lithograph from 1939.

Northwest Social Realism at Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds

It’s an important part of art history in our region.

During the Great Depression and into the post-World War II period, many Northwest artists set out to report reality in their paintings.

“Northwest Social Realism and the American Scene, 1930-1950” is the new exhibition at Cascadia Art Museum, which focuses on Northwest art through the 1960s.

The show, up through March 26 at the Edmonds museum, offers a glimpse into how Northwest artists depicted everyday life, reflecting the industrial, political and social aspects — the racial and class inequities of the period.

Artistically, the period focused on what artists saw in their own communities, said Cascadia’s curator David Martin.

“Beginning in the late 1920s younger American artists were turning away from the dominant influence of European Impressionism and Modernism in search of a completely unique representation of America,” Martin said.

Artists represented in the exhibition include Abe Blashko (1920-2011), Richard Correll (1904-1990), Yvonne Twining Humber (1907-2004), Helmi Juvonen (1903-1985), Anne Kutka McCosh (1902-1994), Kamekichi Tokita (1897-1948), Kenneth Callahan (1905-1986), Fay Chong (1912-1973), Ernest Norling (1892-1974) and Pieter van Dalen (1897 to 1975).

These artists celebrated urban as well as rural environments, and painted local industries, labor activity, street scenes and even recreation.

“Some of it was in-your-face politics,” Martin said. “This kind of work had not been done before.”

Many of these artists worked for the federal Works Progress Administration program, which kept them employed during hard times.

“And many were socialists,” Martin said. “Some had fought in World War II and were very patriotic, but they also were very leftist.

“The leftist movement was so strong in Washington state that, in 1936, Postmaster General James Farley quipped, ‘There are 47 states in the union, and the Soviet of Washington.’”

If you go

Cascadia Art Museum, 190 Sunset Ave., is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. On the third Thursdays of each month, it is open later for free from 6 until 8 p.m. Parking is free. Entrance to the museum shop is free. General admission is $10, tickets for seniors and students 18 and younger are $7, and free for preschool children. For more information, call 425-336-4809 or go to www.cascadiaartmuseum.org.

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