Associated American Artists: Original Etchings and Lithographs from Our Permanent Collection

Sep 8-Oct 27, 2007 In March of 1933, all of the banks in America were closed. Our country was gripped by an economic depression, and the rest of the world wondered if we would rise again. The emotional climate of the American people was also at a low. It was one of the most trying times in our history.

One man, however, had a vision and deep-rooted faith in the cultural instincts of the people of this country.

Reeves Lewenthal chose this time in history to form an organization he named the Associated American Artists, and he planned a new system to distribute affordable, original art to every American. As an art dealer and art marketer, Lewenthal knew the artists, their talents and their frustrations. He also knew the market for original art was small, as most of the country was rural, and people do not live near an art gallery.

Lewenthal set out fo find financial assistance from individuals and organizations in order to make this visionary program possible. He received only resounding, emphatic "No's!" "People are clamoring for bread and you want to give them art!" It would be almost two years until Lewenthal was able to successfully sell his idea and obtain the backing he needed to launch this project to make original, fine art, at affordable prices, available to the general public.

Artists were weary of working within the confined audience of wealthy collectors, and they gladly committed themselves to the idea of a wider distribution, although this also meant enormous price concessions. They began to make art for the masses. These artists based their art on social imagery, on everyday America. They left behind abstract theories in favor of the familiar scenery of our country.

Lewenthal ingeniously used the post office as his means of distribution. Catalogs were printed and distributed throughout America. Citizens were able to browse through these catalogs at their leisure, in their homes. Budding collectors sprang up across the country. Americans eagerly filled long pent-up cultural voids and the program as an overwhelming success. Yes, it was true: people did need bread to nourish their bodies, but it was proven that they hungered for beauty and spiritual nourishment as well. Art fed their souls.

During its first twenty years, Associated American Artists had grown to international importance. The evidence of hte cultural impact was everywhere, in the nation's homes, on their greeting cards and on their wearing apparel, as Associated American Artists soon began designing fabrics.

One of these collectors, Mr. Winston Wayne, became a member and began collecting Associated American Artists prints, resulting in this collection. In 2005, Mr. Wayne, with his daughters Ms. Susan Wayne and Mrs. Leslie Wayne Loftus, generously donated this collection the the Springfield Museum of Art, and we present it to you here, now part of our permanent collection.