|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (January 2009)|
Southern art is a broad term that applies to art of, about, and from the American South. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans houses the largest single collection of Southern art. In 1992, the Morris Museum of Art opened in Augusta, Georgia, with a focus on Mid-Twentieth Century American Southern art.
Southern art refers to the sum of the work of artists who have lived in the American South. The core of the American South consists of the eleven states that formed the Confederate States of America: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Beyond these eleven states, there is some dispute as to which of the following six states should also be included: Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.
Of these six "border" states, Delaware and Oklahoma probably have the weakest claim to be included in the American South. Though a slave-holding state until the end of the American Civil War, Delaware never seceded, and today is culturally closer to the urban Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Oklahoma was a sparsely populated territory at the time of the Civil War, and though it contributed a regiment to the Confederate Army, it never was home to the kind of plantation life typical of the American South.
Residents of the American South created works of art starting with the original settlement of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. However, it was not until the early 1960s that art from the American South became recognized as a distinct genre. Collector Roger H. Ogden focused exclusively on the art of the region, and his donation of that collection to the Ogden Museum can be considered the first official recognition of the genre.
Southern art is more widely recognized as a distinct genre compared to the regional art of other geographic regions of the United States of America. This is a consequence of the unique role the American South played in the history of the United States. Slavery, though legal in every one of the thirteen original colonies, flourished and grew as an institution in the early 19th century in the American South, while it died out in the North. Political issues surrounding slavery caused the American Civil War, and that conflict and its resolution defined the United States and American culture today more than any single event in history. For that reason, Southern art is an important element in the story of the United States of America.
Rowan Nathaniel House offers a fine example of Southern art. He was a Mississippi native whose artwork frequently portrayed southern life, in particular, that of former slaves and their role in the south of the early 20th century.
These movements are connected by the commonality of the Southern cultural experiences that formed the perceptions of the artists.
While antebellum Southern portraiture has little in common visually with modern Southern expressionism, it is considered Southern art because it was created by Southern artists and its subjects were residents of the American South.
- Laufer, Marilyn, Modernism in the South: Mid-Twentieth-Century Works in the Morris Museum Collection, Morris Museum, 2002.