Monday, April 30, 2012

Dale Nichols -Transcending Regionalism

Dale Nichols- John Comes Home for Christmas- 1937- oil on canvas
A week or so two ago I received a wonderful surprise in the mail in the form of a book sent to me by good friend and fellow artist DonWeller and his wife Cha Cha. Dale Nichols: Transcending Regionalism is a rare treat which I have been devouring since its arrival.

Dale Nichols, though much less well known than the other "Big Three" Regionalist artists, Grant Wood, John Stuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton, he is no less worthy of recognition. I had previously only known his work from a single postcard (top image) that I purchased at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

While the Sun Shines-1936, 33" x 43" oil on canvas
The book is more than merely an exhibit catalog for the show of the same name  which opened at the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City, Nebraska, it is more of a true monograph. The exhibitions is currently on display at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Montgomery, Alabama through June 10, 2012.

Dale Nichols could arguably be considered the fourth significant name included in any discussion of Regionalist American art. A native son of David City, Nebraska where he was born in July 13, 1904, Nichols studied briefly at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts before forging a successful career in illustration.

Woman's Day cover- 1947
Saturday Evening Post cover- 1941
After a ten year career in commercial work, Nichols abruptly changed gears and began a gallery career creating iconic farmscapes that were rooted to his Nebraska youth, but he never fully abandoned illustration. Though he was very prolific, Nichols never achieved the notoriety of his Regionalist cohorts, probably because his career began in earnest about a decade behind his Regionalist peers.

After the Blizzard- 1945, 30" x 40", oil on canvas
Had the Regionalist wave lasted a few years longer, Nichols would likely have been a household name along with that of American Gothic painter Grant Wood. Dale Nichols did not apologize for his nostalgic sensibilities. "I possess a profound belief that art reaches its maximum importance when it inspires those with whom it comes in contact" he explained.

Evening in the Foothills- 1940, Oil on canvas

Of his preferred subjects, he believed that in order to paint something authentically you must live it. "I paint barns and rural life, not because it may have been or is in vogue, but because my twenty years as a farmer provide me with an essential and intimate knowledge of my subject matter".

Big City News- 1940, 40" x 40", Oil on canvas
Arizona Twilight
 Nichols travels led him to live and work in places such as Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arizona and even Guatemala where he painted what he experienced. His fascination with ancient Mayan cultures even led him to be considered somewhat of an expert in that field. Dale Nichols died in Sedona, Arizona on October 19, 1995  at the age of 91.

Putting Up Ice- 1945
Platte Valley Summer- 1969, 30" x 40' oil on canvas
Nichols' paintings are in a number of museums including the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Dale Nichols- Transcending Regionalism is the first ever printed collection of the artist's work and hopefully will help set his rightful place in the Regionalist realm alongside Benton, Wood and Curry.

Buy Dale Nichols- Transcending Regionalism here


Rob Colvin said...

He's one of my favorites!

Greg Newbold said...

He's one of mine now too!

Kathy said...

This is my first experience with Nichols work. I am a big fan of Thomas Hart Benton and can see many comparisons. Love this art - thanks for sharing!

Brad Teare said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Teare said...

A few of his paintings remind me of Rockwell Kent.

Coreopsis said...

Thanks for sharing this. He really has a great sense of form. (I too am a real Thomas Hart Benton fan). It would be worth me studying this....

Greg Newbold said...

Brad, In the book, it mentions how he was influenced by Kent, to the point of trying to recreate Kent's Alaskan painting trip.
Coreopsis, The book is worth the $35. I'd have purchased it if it wasn't a gift.