Doel Reed, “Oklahoma Farm,” 1935

Doel Reed was an American artist who was born in Indiana in 1895, and lived until 1985.  Reed was first interested in pursuing a career in architecture, but in 1916 he made a turn to being more interested in the fine arts.  He decided to attend the Cincinnati Art Academy where he was educated in new styles, and studied other artists such as Francisco Goya for inspiration.  After graduating from the art academy, Reed moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma where he would serve as the head of the Oklahoma State University Art Department from 1924 until 1959. His 1935 work, Oklahoma Farm, brought a new, impressionistic style to his work.

Doel Reed, "Oklahoma Farm," 1935. Oil on canvas, collection of the Oklahoma State University College of Arts and Sciences.

In Oklahoma Farm, Reed uses light, color, and texture to portray the landscape as something completely full of life and prosperity, which was opposite of the current state of the Midwest in 1935.  Reed’s brushstrokes are thick and impressionistic, which give the painting a light, somewhat carefree character.  The use of light in this painting is typical of the impressionistic era, making it seem photographic in nature, specifying a certain moment in time, which is a main characteristic of modernism in art.  Unlike the majority of his prints and other works of art, Reed uses bright, vibrant colors in this work, which made it stand out among the rest.  Also, the setting of this work is interesting, as when most picture a farm in Oklahoma, flat and drab are two words which would stand out; however, Reed portrays this specific farm among rolling hills, sparse trees, and full of color.  This work in particular relates to earlier works done by artists such as Paul Cezanne, where color portrayed the emotions of the painting, and gave form to the artists’ sensations and perceptions of the subject.  Among the visual aesthetics, this painting also conveyed a deeper meaning, one that is important in the modernist art culture.

The way Reed portrays the farm and prairie in this painting is completely opposite of what it would have been in the year 1935.  At this time, the Midwest was clouded in droughts, dust storms, and depression as the dust bowl hit in 1934.  The whole state of Oklahoma was devastated, and farmland had become obsolete due to the overuse of the land.  A key aspect of modernism is giving a sense of authenticity through the art.  Portraying the typical Oklahoma farm in this manner may have given a sense of hope that life would once again be prosperous to those in this region and all across the United States.

Author Kristen Remson is a junior enrolled in ART 3683: History of 20th Century Art.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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