What is clear about the art of John Mellencamp is that his work extends the rich tradition of American expressionistic art that harks back to the painterly canvases of Robert Henri (1865-1929) and the so called Early Modernists that flourished in the early part of the 20th Century. The Butler's "The Little Dancer' from 1916 reveals the rich and highly textured handling of paint the has its roots in Vincent Van Gogh's impasto surfaces often achieved with finders and palette knives.
Also in the collection is Marsden Hartley's (1877-1943) "Birds of Bagaduce" that brought to America the expressionistic fevor of German Expressionist art that helped define Modernism in the early part of the century. Marsden Hartley would have identified strongly with the social relevance of so much of John Mellencamp's art, its social commentary, its exaggerations and its humor.
Robert Henri (1865-1929), The Little Dancer, 1916-1918, Oil on Canvas