Robert Gwathmey by Michael Kammen
The Life and Art of a Passionate Observer

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American artist Robert Gwathmey (1903-1988) was a leading member of the Social Realist movement that flourished from the 1930s through the 1950s. Like his fellow Social Realists, Gwathmey sought to use his art to expose privilege and pretense, demand social justice, and call for major changes in the prevailing socioeconomic system.

Gwathmey was an eighth-generation Virginian of Welsh heritage, and throughout his life his main artistic themes were race relations and his native South. He is perhaps best remembered as the first white American painter to depict African Americans in an unromanticized, respectful manner. Using a unique style that combined a deliberate two-dimensional flatness with deep and vivid colors, Gwathmey illuminated the inherent dignity of the tenant farmers and sharecroppers who were his subjects.

As a lifelong activist against injustice, Gwathmey was kept under surveillance by the FBI for nearly thirty years. Using Gwathmey's FBI file, along with numerous interviews and archival records, Michael Kammen crafts a compelling portrait of an engaging American painter in the midst of dramatic social and political change.

About Michael Kammen

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Michael Kammen, the Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture at Cornell University, is a past president of the Organization of American Historians. He is the author or editor of numerous works, including "People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization," which won the Pulitzer Prize for History, and "A Machine That Would Go of Itself: The Constitution in American Culture," awarded the Francis Parkman Prize and the Henry Adams Prize. He has lectured throughout the world.
Published September 15, 1999 by The University of North Carolina Press. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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A white, Virginia-born social realist painter, Gwathmey produced marvelous pictures of African-American life, mostly in the agrarian South. His characters are not historical emblems but have their own

Sep 13 1999 | Read Full Review of Robert Gwathmey : The Life an...

Publishers Weekly

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see PW Interview, Aug. 2, Forecasts, June 14), a professor of American history and culture at Cornell, gauges the achievement of a man whom the FBI kept under surveillance for 27 years because of his Communist Party affiliations, his strong support for black culture and his outspoken, courageous ...

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