On 35 and 21, c. 1949, oil on Masonite, 28 x 22 inches, signed lower left, label verso reads: “The Butler Art Institute, Youngstown 2, Ohio; The New Year Show” together with the name of the artist, the title, the artist’s street address (RR #1, Selma Indiana), and the price ($150)
About the Paintig
Ruth Glaser Bryan’s painting On 35 and 21 depicts Muncie, Indiana, near Bryan’s hometown of Selma. During the 1930s and 1940s, US 35 and Indiana State Road 21 followed the same route through north central Indiana’s manufacturing heartland running along the eastern edge of Muncie. Beginning early in the 20th Century, Muncie became an industrial hub for glass, iron, and steel manufacturing, in addition to automobile part production. Bryan captures this scene during the height of industrial growth in the region in the late 1940s when Muncie’s factories employed thousands of workers, many of them returning GIs, before manufacturing in the Midwest fell on hard times several decades later. Bryan’s composition includes mainstays of American Scene painting from this period, a smoke-belching factory, a railroad spur for a coal yard, a distant government building, and a local service station surrounded by consumer advertising, including one sign that assures us they have “Gas for Less.” The government building is the Delaware County Courthouse, which was built in 1887 and demolished in 1967. The factory is likely associated with one of the glass, auto or other manufacturers which had facilities near downtown and depended on a steady supply of coal from the railway spur running along the side of the building. The juxtaposition of the billboards for white “Good Bread” and starched white dress shirts, on the one hand, and the blackness of the piles of coal, on the other hand, makes for an interesting, but also unifying, contrast. Bryan’s On 35 and 21 gives us a snapshot of key features that helped drive the middle class post-war economic boom. – coal, cars, and consumer spending.
About the Artist
Ruth Glaser Bryan was an Indiana painter best known for her American Scene industrial works. She was born June 5, 1915, and died July 27, 2005. She studied at Ladywood School, St. Mary-of-the-Wood College, Northwestern University, and the Illinois Academy of Fine Art. Bryan was a member of the Indiana Artists Club and exhibited at the Hoosier Salon (1948) and the Ball State Teachers Conference. She acted as a judge for the Kokomo Art Association (1955). A May 13, 1955, article in the Kokomo Tribune noted that Bryan exhibited in the East and Midwest and that she had one-woman shows in Chicago and New York. A review of her work in France described Bryan as “one of the foremost industrial painters in the United States.” In addition to her fine art paintings, Bryan worked as a commercial art designer for the Boxell Sign Company. Upon her death, a trust in her name was established to fund an annual scholarship for a financially needy art student to pursue a university arts education in Indiana.