Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Two paintings, one storm cloud

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I find it interesting when two artists, half a world a part, make similar paintings at pretty much the same time. That tells us something about art as a shared, international visual language — and it tells us something about that particular time in human history.

This is Chaim Soutine‘s Return from School After the Storm, from the Phillips Collection. Soutine painted Return in 1939, after two of the wildest years of his life. (And this is Windy Day, Auxerre, painted at about the same time.) In 1937 Soutine experienced a professional triumph: By virtue of his participation in a show for non-French artists at the Jeu de Paume, life-long outsider Soutine was finally hailed as a master. By 1939, Nazi atrocities against Jews were well underway. When the Germans invaded France in 1940, Soutine was forced to run and hide wherever he could. He died in 1943 from a perforated ulcer. He was 50 years old. The optimism of this painting’s title has always amazed me.

This is John Rogers Cox’s Gray and Gold, from 1942, the year after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the year in which America fully joined the war. It’s in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cox was an American regionalist from Terre Haute, Ind., about as far as you can get from Paris. In 1943 he joined the Army. After the war Life magazine published a feature story on Cox titled, “JOHN ROGERS COX: Bank clerk wins fame painting wheat fields.”

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  1. Marcie Sprankle says:

    I did a good bit of research on the Cox painting while getting my MA in Art History at the joint program at CWRU and the CMA. While beloved in Cleveland, it’s generally unknown… so I was pleasantly surprised to see it on MAN! My research focused on the origins of the imagery in the painting (while I like your wartime connection, I found direct sources closer to home) as well as visitor studies on why the painting has proven to be one of the most popular works in the CMA collection.
    Thanks for this great reminder of one of the more fascinating works I’ve ever studied!

  2. jane daniels says:

    Great painting! im into Face Painting Images myself and i always get inspired seeing the works of other artists

  3. James says:

    A few years ago, prior to the renovation at The Cleveland Museum of Art, and faced with ever shrinking wall space, a few misguided curators decided to take down the Cox and place it in storage. Much to the surprise of the Museum there was a huge public out cry and the painting was placed back on view and has remained ever since.

  4. sroden says:

    these are amazing. it’s incredible how much they share when the soutine is so wonky and furious, and the cox is so methodical and seemingly calm (before the storm of course). it’s like the soutine is totally agitated and a breeze has surprised it, while the cox is nearly static, almost pristine. someone should show them together in a real room!

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