What is it?
Lois Ireland (Waunakee 1928–Eden Prairie, Minnesota 2020)
Oil on canvas
30 1/2 x 36 in.
Gifted 2021, University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of Continuing Studies and Kohler Foundation, Inc.
About the Work
American Scene painter Lois Ireland is known for her iconic scenes of farming in the Midwest. Born in the farming community of Waunakee north of Madison, she attracted the attention of Regionalist champion John Steuart Curry, who discovered her work hanging in a local steakhouse.
In 1942, Curry, the University of Wisconsin’s first artist-in-residence, invited the fourteen-year-old to join his newly formed Wisconsin Rural Art Program as its youngest member. After studying briefly with Curry, Ireland left Wisconsin in 1949 to study at the Art Students’ League in New York with painters Frank DuMond and Yasuo Kuniyoshi. She returned in 1950 to the familiar setting of her family home and state where she pursued the Regionalist idiom of Curry, Thomas Hart Benton, and Grant Wood.
The Homecoming is characteristic of Ireland’s most compelling work of the 1940s and 1950s. Her paintings offer uncomplicated glimpses into a timeless world untouched by the horrors of the Second World War. Ireland captures the allure of rural life: soft, billowing clouds of chimney smoke, untarnished blankets of snow, and golden bounties of hay. These simple details, nestled within a sweeping pastoral setting, provide a reassuring context for diminutive figures whose gestures suggest that the importance of labor resides not with the individual but collectively with family and community.