Born in David City, Nebraska, in 1904, Dale Nichols was an American Regionalist painter, illustrator, educator, and author. His interest in art began early though life on a grain farm left little time for study and it wasn’t until he turned twenty that he began formal education in painting. In Chicago he took classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts under its founder Carl Werntz and later at the Art Institute of Chicago. After a short period of study in Vienna, Nichols would again settle in Chicago, this time remaining for nearly two decades as the Carnegie Professor of Art at the University of Illinois. Though trends in painting at the time were heading toward Modernism, Nichols was an advocate for a traditionalist style of regionalism and often returned to the prairie landscapes of his youth for his subjects.
Beginning in the early 1940s, and for the next two decades, Nichols would travel extensively throughout the United States, establish an art school in Tubac Arizona, work as an editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and study Mayan sculpture in Guatamala. Exhibitions include four (1935, 1936, 1938, and 1939) at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of art in 1941, and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1946. He was represented by New York’s MacBeth Gallery from 1930 to 1950, and later by the Grand Central Art Galleries. Nichols’ works can be seen in major American museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and many others. Nichols died in Sedona Arizona in 1995
Autumn Furrows painted circa 1938 is an important canvas for the artist and stands as one of his most moving landscapes depicting man and the American dream. Nichols would have been aware of the movement in the country at the time where regionalist works being painted around the United States in different locales, capturing Americans working hard and carrying out a vision of what they could make of things. It was a time where artists depicted farmers, carpenters, builders, welders, retailers and all the different aspects of American trying to apply its muscle. It was a great period in American art and with this canvas, we see Nichols painting in this spirit a scene which had a broader context.
A magnificent work that is museum worthy, as the metaphoric aspect of the mountain, the furrows, the tilling all work to create a positive and idealistic statement about how Americans felt in general at the time, despite their poverty and strife. Later on, Nichols moves on to a more formulaic approach toward depicting farm life as he would repeatedly capture a farm scene with the classic red barn, wind device, and field. Yet it seemed to become a bit more of a subject that he felt might sell well. In this early work we have Nichols fresh to his own ambitions and this painting stands compositionally as a strong work of art.
Abbott Labs, Chicago
Private Collection, Chicago