Mahonri M. Young (1877-1957), Cutting Corn, 1937, oil on canvas, 25 1/4 x 30 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
Mahonri M. Young’s depiction of an autumnal harvest— a documented task to complete, and a glorious scenography for an artist to compose —feels both authentic and idealized. Young invests his image with the cycles of life, and documents the timeless necessity to work within the law of the harvest: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7).
Young’s title feels abrupt and truncated as there is a lot more than corn in this ecosystem. A canopy of mature trees proliferates above the distant purple horizon. Activated birds are loosely configured. The arc of the distant clouds encloses a productive, ambitious system shaped like a snow globe. In 1938, the American Nation was emerging from the lived privations of the Great Depression, and Mahonri’s bountiful, productive still-life/landscape embodies a tentative optimism as well as a newly codified modernist sensibility.