Robert Gwathmey (American 1903-1988)
Bar-B-Que, by Robert Gwathmey, was used as the cover image for Scientific American Vol. 256, No. 2 (Feb 1987). The title of the issue was "Hunger in the US". This was an apt use of a work by the social realist painter known as an artist, an art professor and a political activist. Gwathmey was one of the first white artists known for respectful and truthful depictions of African American life and experiences. Focusing much of his work on the rural south and using bold colors, Gwathmey explored topics like poverty and race relations that Americans still grapple with to this day.
Robert Gwathmey was born in Richmond Virginia. He studied art for a short time at the Maryland Institute of Art and later earned a degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1942, Gwathmey began teaching at Cooper Union in New York, where he spent the bulk of his teaching career. Influencing the themes of his work were experiences such as working in a settlement house while in school in PA and working on a tobacco farm through a fellowship award. His many trips returning to his roots in the South are also credited with opening his eyes to the themes than run through his artistic legacy.