Many realist painters in the early 20th century took as their subjects the everyday life of American cities: the crush of humanity in tenement houses, the spectacle of beaches and burlesque houses, and the crowds and isolation of city streets. But this realist trend in art was not reserved exclusively for the cities. During the Depression, the U. S. government hired artists to create public art (such as painted murals in public buildings) documenting American life in both urban and rural areas. The Midwest's prairies and New England's forests and coast were the settings for industrious citizens working in and living off the land, an antidote to more claustrophobic views of urban life. In both cases, however, artists strove for an art that was resolutely American, in its boldness and vigor as well as its subject matter.

Some of the artists on view in this gallery include George Bellows, Isabel Bishop, and Reginald Marsh.