Reynolds Homestead exhibition highlights history of tobacco
Virginia Tech's Reynolds Homestead, located in Critz, Va., will exhibit 18 paintings recently donated to the university by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, at a public opening and reception from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 2.
The paintings – which show various aspects of harvesting, hanging, and selling tobacco – are from the American Regionalism movement that was prominent in the 1930s and 1940s.
Regionalists, sometimes called American scene painters, concentrated on the realistic depiction of life in the Midwest and South, derived from a patriotic desire to establish a genuine American art free from European influence. Their works are realistic portrayals of rural America that often express the despair and loneliness of the Great Depression.
Artists featured in the exhibition include Arnold Blanch, Clarence Holbrook Carter, James Chapin, John Stockton de Martelly, Cosmo de Salvo, John Philip Falter, Irwin D. Hoffman, David Stone Martin, George Schreiber, Zoltan Leslie Sepeshy, and Lawrence Beall Smith.
"The Virginia Tech Foundation is honored to receive this significant collection of paintings from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which are illustrative of the cultural and economic history of tobacco farming in America – in which the Reynolds Homestead played a most significant part," said Ray Smoot, chief operating officer for the foundation.
At the opening, Susan Ivey, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Reynolds American Inc., is expected to discuss how the paintings depict the rich cultural history of tobacco in America. The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which donated the paintings, is a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. Both companies are headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The Reynolds Homestead, operated by Virginia Tech’s Office of Outreach and International Affairs, features the fully-restored Rock Spring Plantation House, a registered state and national landmark built in 1843, which was the birthplace and boyhood home of tobacco manufacturing pioneer R.J. Reynolds.
Officials say the paintings’ subject makes them a fitting addition to the homestead’s collection of items to display.
"This kind investment by RJR Tobacco will provide future generations who visit the Reynolds Homestead unique insights into the important role tobacco has played in the history, economy, and culture of southern Virginia,” said Virginia Tech Vice President for Outreach and International Affairs John Dooley. “Coupled with the reconstruction of one of the homestead’s tobacco barns, the artwork will provide impressive visual imagery into the history of planting, harvesting, and selling tobacco."
Reynolds Homestead Director Kay Dunkley added that: “We are delighted to have a permanent collection of art to display in the Continuing Education Center – one that provides a window into the tobacco industry that grew in part from the Reynolds family and their estate in Critz.”
The opening reception will feature drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and piano selections performed by Cecil Murray Akers. Those who plan to attend should notify Michele Faircloth at (276) 694-7181, ext. 21 no later than July 28. For more information about Reynolds Homestead, contact Kay Dunkley at (276) 694-7181 ext. 23.