In Taxing Visions, Leo Mazow and Kevin Murphy explore taxes, rents, economic depression, and financial inequity as subject matter in several visually provocative paintings and works on paper. Although this period is often identified artistically with leisure-laden impressionist landscapes, flowing-with-abundance still-life paintings, and class-conscious “official” portraits, practitioners working in a variety of stylistic idioms reckoned with financial panics and occupational turmoil that marked the Reconstruction, Gilded Age, and early Progressive eras. These paintings, drawings, and prints demonstrate with sometimes startling clarity the experience of economic downturn, ultimately picking up where facts, figures, and the printed word leave off.
Featured artists include William Michael Harnett, George Inness, Eastman Johnson, and James McNeill Whistler, as well as several lesser-known individuals, in part because their art “taxes” our sensibilities of socioeconomic propriety. Taxing Visions shows satire and protest playing out through a sizable body of work, with artists confronting recession and depression with equal parts reportage, invective, humor, and hope. This catalogue accompanies an exhibition of the same name organized by the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State University and the Huntington Library and Art Collections in San Marino, California.