ByeGoneDays could be yesterday in my mind, but I have concentrated on the South in the Great Depression and the Silent Generation into which I was born. History painting is a genre defined by subject matter or realism with a touch of impressionism or in my case artistic license. Each of us interprets art based on our own background and personal history. In this project I sought to highlight in my images the narrative of the Great Depression. I have attempted to depict or inject a moment in a narrative story rather than a static subject such as a specific scene or portrait. The “history painting” term derives from the Latin word historia, and essentially means "story painting." My objective is to draw the viewer into the painting and into the story which I am developing. The figures or scenes I depict may trigger a memory that many may have forgotten. My interest was further developed from Eudora Welty’s book “One Place, One Time” in which she chronicled the 1930s Depression in her native state of Mississippi with B & W “snapshots”. My objective in this series is to include the locales and human conditions in other southern states during the Depression era.
In 19th century art there was almost always a number of figures shown, and often a large number. I love to include figures in my paintings because they focus the story and appeal to the curiosity of the viewer. Moments in religious and mythological narratives were the most commonly painted historical art of the past. Works such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling painting are considered historical as are most very large paintings before the 19th century. The original term essentially covered large paintings in oil on canvas as Raphael’s St. Paul Preaching in Athens or as fresco in DaVinci’s Last Supper. This art was produced between the Early Renaissance and the late 19th century. History painting was traditionally regarded as the highest form of Western painting by some and occupied a prestigious place equivalent to the epic in literature.
History painting has been my inspiration in recording actual people and events based on derivative B & W documentary and personal photographs available from the Depression. The scenes by Welty in her B & Ws as well as those depicted in ByeGoneDays to my knowledge were never posed. In my paintings the South and its people are presented in their natural surroundings which will never be seen again. For this reason the color in oil paintings had the greatest potential to move the viewer and to also preserve the past for future generations. The actual image may be recorded in B & W but the viewer’s eye and brain reacts and associates forms with known colors. The viewer is thus able to respond to the artist’s vision of the interaction, gestures, and expressions of figures in the scene. In some 19th or 20th century contexts the history painting term may refer specifically to paintings of scenes from secular history which would include the Depression era paintings of the South rather than those from religious narratives, literature, or mythology. The artists who depicted everyday life in past history frequently left the studio to paint in available light and focus on humble subjects connected with a moral message. Moral messages were also instructive in ordinary and family life and were even superior because more people would be able to understand and apply the lessons today from the visual experience.AC Brown, MD
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Oil Paintings by AC Brown MD