Our Good Earth. 1942. Lithograph. Cole 36. 12 3/4 x 10 1/8 (sheet 16 3/4 x 12 5/8). Edition 250 for Associated American Artists. Illustrated: Beall, American Prints in the Library of Congress.This was originally an image used for advertising war bonds, reading, 'Our Good Earth, Keep it Ours, Buy War Bonds, Make Every Market Day Bond Day.' A fine impression on the full sheet of white wove paper with deckle edges. Signed in pencil. $5,000.
Our Good Earth is a painting and war poster by Curry that highlights the symbolic importance of the heartland to the American war effort. When commissioned to do war art, Reeves Lewenthal, director of Associated American Artists gallery, tried suggesting possible subjects for John Steuart Curry's new sponsorship: "Perhaps you can do a heroic figure of a soldier guarding over or fighting for the preservation of all those benefits and advantages we enjoy in our democracy; or perhaps, could be fighting for the preservation of our peaceful, fertile farmlands, can be effectively portrayed in the background; or, perhaps, shadows of out former hero soldiers can drift into the distance behind this forceful foreground figure.... Then again, you might do a nurse-or a flyer-or a marine-or a sailor-in some symbolic composition."  But Curry had other ideas when he responded with: "...it seems very doubtful whether it is strategic or desirable to use fear as the motive in picturing to them the needs of the war program. Our people are patriotic. Thousands of our young men are volunteering before they are drafted. Bond sales are at a high level. Our people expect to win the war and are prepared to pay any price that may be necessary. They do not need to be threatened by some fear complex in order to do their best. They are responding to incentives that are on a much higher plane and more effective than fear." Instead, Curry fell into step with his typical subject matter and painted an agricultural subject.
Our Good Earth shows a farmer standing in his field of wheat, flanked on either side by children as wind gusts through the scene. The state of the man, his children, and the bountiful crop register the plenty that the farm is experiencing despite the war overseas. The farmer's face shows his concern for the times ahead, but it does not indicate any intention to depart from his land or his family for the war overseas. Typical of a Curry work, the weather alludes to the underlying stress of the war. As the family stands in the field, a gust of wind rips through the scene trying to uproot the children and disrupt the crops-just as the war threatens the farmer's land and family. When the work was published as a war bond poster the caption "Our Good Earth...Keep It Ours" was added, inspiring the onlooker to do their part by buying war bonds to "Make Every Market Day, Bond Day." Later, the work was used as the cover for a war bond pamphlet. In addition to the "Keep It Ours" caption, "Long May It Wave" was placed at the bottom of the pamphlet, referencing the "amber waves of grain" of the song America the beautiful and the second stanza of the Star Spangled Banner.
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