Sometimes, you can look at a painting and know it’s North American.
No stoic portraits of farmers or stars and stripes are necessary.
It’s something about open space, a sense of isolation that at times is comforting and at other times disconcerting.
Lonely or self-reliant? Barren or rich with color?
Like America itself, it’s a bit of all of the above. And the rules and traditions of European painting need not apply.
If you go to the Brandywine Museum of Art in Chadds Ford to see “Rural Modern: American Art Beyond the City,” which runs through Jan. 22, you will see many of these ideas. You look at them, and you just know — this is America.
“Rural Modern” features more than 60 works, mostly painted between the 1920s and 1940s.
The exhibit studies the growth of modernism as it expanded from cities such as New York and Chicago into rural regions across the country, including the small towns of Pennsylvania.
Two works by Lancaster’s Charles Demuth are included in the exhibit. They are his precisionist works, exploring the growing industrialism of small towns such as Lancaster.
The coastal regions of New England, the farmlands of the Midwest and the deserts of the Southwest are featured, as well.
All of the work explores American modernism, where traditions and artistic rules about perspective, color and subject are turned on their ear.
In addition to Demuth, such well-known American artists as Grant Wood, Georgia O’Keeffe, Anna Mary Robertson, better known as “Grandma Moses,” Charles Sheeler and Thomas Hart Benton are featured.