John Faulkner’s Vanishing South

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Believing, as he said in a letter to his publisher in 1951, that human nature is essentially the same everywhere, while character or identity is a function of place and local conditions, Faulkner prized the vanishing peculiarities of his own region. In his paintings and his novels he attempted to record accurately, and to honor, a mode of human identity that was disappearing into the homogeneity of American life in the mid-twentieth century.

A truly “primitive” painter, Faulkner exhibits the qualities of primitive painting the world over—the flattened perspectives; the enlarged figure, used as a means of emphasis, such as that of the “Man in the Blue Suede Shoes” in Little Chicago : the rather crude but evocative delineation of human figures and faces. But he was duly modest about his painting, more concerned with the subject matter than with painting as such, and the charm of the results is no doubt in large part a reflection of his fascination with the distinctive humanity of Lafayette County and especially Beat Two.