Montgomery, Alabama.- “Dale Nichols: Transcending Regionalism” a major retrospective exhibition will open at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) on March 17th and remain on view through June 10th. Curated by the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art, David City, Nebraska, this exhibition displays a body of work by internationally known painter Dale Nichols. Nichols became famous for his Americana scenes of Midwestern homesteads with picturesque red barns and white snow. These have become the prized works on which Nichols built his career and from which contemporary collectors have built their collections. Dale Nichols (1904–1995), also published under his full name, Dale William Nichols, was an American visual artist whose works included illustrations, paintings, lithographs, and wood carvings. He is best known for his work as a rural landscape painter.
However, there is much more to the story of Dale Nichols. “Transcending Regionalism” gives credit to these commemorative artworks and events and describes how these early works explain Nichols’ exploration of style. The exhibition was at the Bone Creek museum of Agrarian Art before transferring to the Georgia Museum of Art and now is has reached Montgomery. Paintings dating from 1935 to 1972 establish Nichols not only as the fourth regionalist in a line of great artists, such as Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, but one who transcended the confines of the genre to achieve universal success in art. This exhibition represents Nichols’ years on the farm in Nebraska and manifests those memories in a variety of styles and places. Nichols held firm to his Midwestern roots while he traveled the world in search of adventure and truth.
Nichols’ work is often classified with that of other regional American landscape artists, including Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton. Nichols was born on July 13, 1904 in the small town of David City, Nebraska, and began his career as an artist while studying at The Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, IL. He spent the greater part of the 1920s and 1930s in Chicago, later becoming the Carnegie Professor in Art at the University of Illinois. Nichols would then take a position in 1943 as the Art Editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Upon leaving his post at Britannica, Nichols spent the remainder of his life traveling, splitting the majority of his time between Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, and Guatemala. He died in Sedona, Arizona on October 19, 1995, at age 91. In September 1939, Nichols’ was featured in Time Magazine. Said one Time reviewer in that issue, “Subjects he prefers are the prairie landscapes of his youth, usually snowed under. These famed smooth snow effects Artist Nichols gets by laying on his oils in a thin film with watercolor brushes.” More recently, his art was published on postcards sold by the United States Postal Service in 1995. Three of Nichols’ paintings are now listed in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Museum of Nebraska Art features four of his large oil paintings, along with four lithographs, and four sketches.
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1930 by a group of local artists and patrons under the name of the “Alabama Society of Fine Arts.” The Museum’s home for the first 29 years was the former Lawrence Street School at the corner of High and Lawrence Streets in downtown Montgomery. In 1960, the Museum became a department of the City of Montgomery and, in 1983, Montgomery County joined the City to support the Museum as an equal partner, sharing the institution’s operating costs. Since 1930, the budget of the Museum has grown from $1,000 per year to more than $4 million. The staff has increased from a small volunteer force to over 50 full and part-time employees. Until 1971, the Museum’s collections included historical objects, archeological artifacts and art. In that year, the focus of the Museum’s collections was redefined and the collecting and preservation of art became the focus of the Museum’s mission. The Museum opened in the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park on September 18, 1988, featuring its collection of American paintings, sculpture and works on paper, with the addition of forty-one historical American paintings given by Blount Incorporated. An interactive gallery, ARTWORKS, was inaugurated to teach about art through interactive exploration and to complement the permanent collection. In 1993, more than 5,000 square feet of gallery space, made possible by a gift from Ida Belle Young, was added in order to increase the Museum’s ability to display contemporary and regional art from the permanent collection. The Weil Graphic Arts Study Center, named for Adolph “Bucks” Weil, Jr., an outstanding connoisseur of art and collector of fine prints, was dedicated in May 1998. The Study Center and its ongoing programming and specialized exhibitions focus on the Museum’s growing collection of works on paper. The most recent additions to the building, completed in 2006, include the Margaret Berry Lowder Gallery, the Jean K. Weil Gallery, the Williamson Gallery, a second studio, an addition to ARTWORKS, the Wynona W. Wilson Orientation Center, the catering kitchen, the Docent Lounge, and additional office space. Since the Museum moved into Blount Cultural Park, over 3 million visitors have enjoyed the wide range of exhibitions and programs. An unusually successful partnership of public and private commitment to the arts in Montgomery, Alabama has assured the future of one of the South’s premier cultural institutions. The Museum’s collection includes nearly 4,000 objects, including major collections of American art, Old Master prints, Southern regional art, and decorative arts. In addition to the Permanent Collection, the Museum exhibits six to eight temporary exhibitions each year organized by major museums across the country. Current year exhibitions include: The Art of the Theatre, African American Folk Art, Bessie Potter Vonnoh Sculpture, Patrick Dougherty site-specific sculpture, Montgomery Art Guild, Mia Pearlman Paper Sculpture and Contemporary Alabama Quilts. Visit the museum’s website at … http://mmfa.org