A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Midwestern landscape provided Marvin Cone a wealth of source material.
While often grouped with Regional artists of the 1920s and 1930s, especially as he was close friends with Grant Wood, Cone did not consider himself a Regionalist. Cone’s art was not an effort to record surrounding daily life, but a blend of his values and imagination and their relationship to his unique experiences. The artist painted for himself, creating pictures that represented his own inner being. As stated by Joseph Czestochowski, “Each of Cone’s works reflects an individual moment in time and space, fixing the artist’s identity within a universal context of inevitable change.” (Joseph Czestochowski, Marvin D. Cone and Grant Wood: an American Tradition, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 1989, p. 10)
From 1930 to 1937, Cone focused his gaze on the unique terrain of rural Iowa. Executed in 1934, Interval epitomizes his work from this period. The painting reveals Cone’s stylized method of breaking down landscapes into layers of component parts and using color rich with light. The composition, dominated by towering cumulus clouds, is given depth through a complex layering of forms, emphasized by the scattered smaller clouds in front of the larger cloudbank and the hazy striations of cirrus clouds above and below. The rolling hills are divided into distinct bands that recede into the background. The colors overall are subtle and evocative in their suggestion of light, which seems to emit outwardly from the heaped clouds. Two birds soar together in the lower left of the composition, accentuating the wild freedom of the expansive landscape. Like many of Cone’s paintings from this period, the scene is devoid of human life. The painting stands as a testament to the mysteries of nature, while also being extremely personal in its sense of solitude and tranquility.
In Interval, Cone created a universal vision safe from the vagaries of time. “The artist does not set out to imitate nature," Cone remarked. “Art traces an abstraction and makes it audible or visual. It symbolizes the whole of life” (as quoted in Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 19, 1938, p. 15, and May 26, 1938, p. 8). Perhaps the distinguished poet and Cone’s close friend Paul Engle, founder of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, best summarized Cone’s achievements when he said in 1960, “Marvin Cone dramatized space…He stares at the world with his hands…He has the painter’s second sight, the form seen once, then again after the imagination has redefined it" (“Portrait of the Artist as Neighbor," Marvin Cone, A Retrospective Exhibition 1938-1960, Iowa City, Iowa, 1960, n.p.).