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The Cover
March 2, 2005


Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(9):1040. doi:10.1001/jama.293.9.1040

For some, the 20 or so years between the two world wars were hopeful years, like coming-of-age years, when anything possible is indeed still probable. To others, they were nothing but a time of darkness and despair—of promises broken and futures that no longer existed. But if the '20s for some had been giddy with hope, the '30s for most took on the grimy cast of hope gone stale. Homeless and jobless men became a frequent topic for artists, themselves more often than not on the cusp of a similar situation. Like the mood of the men, the canvases were dark and gloomy, yet not without relief: from the alternating lights and shadows, faces and figures emerged that spoke eloquently of at least a glimmer of hope. Why else bother to gather one's arthritic limbs for a walk in the Bowery on a cold winter day? Why else gather around a fire with a group of strangers in the middle of nowhere to exchange the latest information? Why else sit for hours on wooden folding chairs in a crowded, stuffy room waiting to hear if there was work that day? Based on the subjects of their works, the artists were called Social Realists, descendants of Robert Henri, founder of the Ashcan School of painting a generation earlier and ultimately of Gustave Courbet, the father of Realism. Based on style, on the other hand, they were called American Scene Painters, an umbrella term that included such Regionalist painters as Grant Wood, John Steuart Currey, and Thomas Hart Benton. The Social Realists included Joseph Delaney (JAMA cover, January 12, 2005), Harry Gottlieb (JAMA cover January 19, 2005), and the Soyer brothers: Moses, his twin Raphael, and Isaac. Transients (cover ) was painted by Raphael Soyer (1899-1987) in 1936.

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