american (1904-1995)


oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches,

signed "Dale nichols" and dated "1939" lower left.

“Farm life was all I knew for the first 20 years of my life. In painting these canvases, I felt again the vastness of endless skies, experienced again the penetrating cold of Nebraska winters, lived again as farmers live …in spirit, I am very much a farmer,”

–Dale nichols.

Dale Nichols was born in rural David City, Nebraska in 1904. His early life had a profound influence on his paintings which centered on the recreations of farm life. He stated, “i feel that an artist paints best what he has been exposed to during his youth. i think my memory paintings of my home state may be my only creations that i sign with full confidence.”

The search for pure american art was growing and the public was interested in scenes of american life. Nichols emerged as an artist when regionalism and rural regionalism were growing as a collecting genre. His paintings are classified as a succession from grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry.

Nichols studied in Chicago at the academy of fine arts and the art institute with Carl Wentz. He became a successful illustrator, watercolorist, designer, writer, lecturer, block-printer and painter. in the 1930s and 40s he created artwork for direct-mail industrial advertising. from 1942-1948 he succeeded grant Wood as art editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica. During his career, he had eighteen solo exhibitions and exhibited in more that eighty regional and national exhibitions.

In Through the Clouds, offered here, Nichols depicts a dramatic sky that seems to be ripping open to let light shine through. a lone farmer stands admiring the view from the path between his house and his barn. The sense of eeriness and quiet in Through the Clouds is characteristic of Nichols’ work. it gives the painting a sense of otherworldliness, barns and rolling hills dominate the landscape rather than skyscrapers and pavement.

Nichols’ distinctive style has attracted collectors since the 1930s. american collectors at that time looked to buy rural regionalist art to capture the disappearing idyllic agricultural lifestyle. Nichols’ work has been avidly collected in numerous public and private collections throughout the country including the metropolitan museum of art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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