The Huntington opens Roger Medearis. His Regionalism exhibition

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens presents Roger Medearis. His Regionalism, an exhibition on view June 16–Sept. 17, 2012.


Roger Medearis, Winter Fields, 1950, oil on Upson board, Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, Gift of Elizabeth Medearis.

The career of American painter Roger Medearis (1920–2001) will be explored in a special exhibition, “Roger Medearis: His Regionalism,” on view at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens from June 16 through Sept. 17, 2012. With a title inspired by the artist’s unpublished book My Regionalism, the exhibition of more than 30 works brings together those given to The Huntington by his widow, Elizabeth (Betty) Medearis, as well as those on loan from private collections and a painting borrowed from the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. Examples of Medearis’ accomplishments in various media, including paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture, along with letters and photographs, will trace the artist’s career, from his beginnings as a student of Thomas Hart Benton at the Kansas City Art Institute through the development of his own distinctive style in California later in life.

“The Huntington is uniquely positioned to present an exhibition focused on Roger Medearis, who is, I think, a relatively underexposed and yet highly accomplished artist,” said Jessica Todd Smith, Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art at The Huntington. “While he had mastered his craft under the celebrated Thomas Hart Benton, tastes changed before Medearis received his due. When Betty gave The Huntington a group of outstanding pieces, we knew we could be the ones to shine a new light on his work.”

The son of a Baptist minister, Roger Norman Medearis was born in Fayette, Mo., and moved with his family to Oklahoma in 1928. He was interested in drawings as a child and, inspired by the work of Norman Rockwell, decided to become an illustrator while still in his early teens.

Medearis arrived at Kansas City’s Art Institute at the age of 18, when Benton was already a national celebrity, having been on the cover of Time magazine in 1934. Along with Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, Benton was a partisan of Regionalism, an American artistic moment in the 1930s and ’40s that rejected European abstraction, took subjects from everyday rural life, and aspired to bring art to a wide audience through public art commissions and low-cost reproductions. For Medearis, this translated to painting what he knew—the farms and people of rural Missouri.

It was around this time that Medearis made the lithograph Benton at Work. He wrote his parents that he had been invited to a surprise birthday party for Thomas Hart Benton, his teacher. “It was, to me, an overwhelming honor [to be invited], and I went, and wasn’t too much of a sore thumb, I hope, among a group which was not on the sober side. But the real fun began, for me, when they gathered around my litho of Benton at Work, which he had in his dining room among his own works, and I became the topic of conversation.” Before the party, Benton had purchased the lithograph, and a half-century later Medearis would re-create it. Both versions (along with snap shots of Medearis and Benton) are on view in “Roger Medearis: His Regionalism.”

The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, Calif., 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It is open to the public Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday holidays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Summer hours (Memorial Day through Labor Day) are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays and major holidays. Admission on weekdays: $15 adults, $12 seniors (65+), $10 students (ages 12–18 or with full-time student I.D.), $6 youth (ages 5–11), free for children under 5. Group rate $11 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission on weekends and Monday holidays: $20 adults, $15 seniors, $10 students, $6 youth, free for children under 5. Group rate $14 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission is free to all visitors on the first Thursday of each month with advance tickets. Rates subject to change. Information: 626-405-2100 or huntington.org

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