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Beyond the Boroughs

Small Town, NY

Edmund Yaghjian, Small Town, NY (1936)

Outside of the urban city, the small towns of rural New York are represented well within the New Deal Gallery. Small town streets, rural roads, natural landscapes, and rustic farmland all make notable appearances in the gallery. These locations are comprised of subjects from both Upstate New York and Long Island.

The painting “Small Town, NY” by Edmund Yaghjian displays an important aspect of the gallery: small town regionalism. Small Town, NY is not a real location, but an icon of all small towns outside of the city, attempting to capture this aspect of New York. The original title for this piece was the more specific “Beacon, NY”. Yaghjian himself worked out of Columbus, NY, which may have been an inspiration for this painting, although this location seems to have taken inspiration from a variety of places. It is a collection of small towns, rather than a singular subject.

During the era of the Great Depression, the simplicity of small town regionalism found its way back into view. Elements of small town America appealed to many urban areas that were hit the hardest and suffering through economic hardship. Paintings and art depicting small towns, roads, and simple farms acted as an escape. Many New Deal artists seem to use this type of Americana to create a familiar and calming atmosphere. By depicting this type of environment, the artists attempted to create a feeling of traveling back to the “good old days” before the economic turmoil of the Great Depression.

Interestingly, many New Deal Gallery artists who depict these small towns lived in New York City, traveling out to towns such as Woodstock for inspiration. While many NYC artist looked to depict natural setting such as rivers and forests, others looked to bring images of rural structures and simpler imagery, such as boats traveling along a river or workers on farmland.