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Johnson Art Museum

American Art from The Great Gatsby Era
A special exhibition
August 18 - September 5

F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby, with its central contrast between the glamour of Long Island socialites and the dark secret of Jay Gatsby's humble beginnings, speaks to the economic paradox of American society in the Roaring Twenties. In the same way, American art of the time shows the divide between urban wealth and rural poverty and the plight of the American worker. This exhibition of prints and photographs from the Museum's permanent collection, offered in conjunction with Cornell's New Student Reading Project assignment of Gatsby to all first-year undergraduates, offers a varied picture of America during the twenties and the Depression years. Works included range from Martin Lewis's New York prints of charming young women in twenties fashions, to the riveting works of great WPA-era printmakers and photographers like Thomas Hart Benton, Arthur Rothstein, and Dorothea Lange who documented the effects of hard times on impoverished Americans and celebrated their determination. These works provide an eloquent commentary on the thin veneer of prosperity seen in The Great Gatsby, and reinforce the relevance of the novel in our own time, resonating with the ever-widening gap between American rich and poor.


Martin Lewis, American 1882-1962
Glow of the City, 1929, etching and aquatint
Bequest of William P. Chapman, Jr., Class of 1895

by: Andrea Potochniak
Publications and Publicity Coordinator
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art