Sunday, October 21, 2012
1930s America's Great Depression - 1934 Public Works Art Project
Barbara Stevenson (American artist, ) Apple Vendor, 1933-34
The United States of America was in crisis as 1934 approached.
Art seemed irrelevant, as the national economy fell into a profound depression after the stock market crash of October 1929.
Charles L. Goeller (American artist, 1901-1985) Third Avenue, 1934
Thousands of banks failed, wiping out the life savings of millions of families.
Catherine M. Howell (American artist, b 1892) Oyster Shuckers, 1934
Farmers battled natural disasters of drought & erosion, as food prices fell.
Businesses struggled or collapsed.
A quarter of the work force was unemployed, while an equal number worked reduced hours.
Gale Stockwell (Amreican artist, 1907-1983) Parkville, Main Street, 1934
More & more people were homeless & hungry.
Nearly 10,000 unemployed artists faced destitution.
Herman Meril (American artist, 1908-1986) Construction Work 1934
The nation looked expectantly to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was inaugurated in March 1933.
J. Theodore Johnson (American artist, 1902-1963) Chicago Interior, 1934
The new administration swiftly initiated a wide-ranging series of economic recovery programs called the New Deal.
Jara Henry Valenta (American artist, 1899-19) East River, 1934
The President realized that Americans needed not only employment but also the inspiration art could provide.
Lily Furedi (American artist, 1896-1969) Subway, 1934
On December 8, 1933, the Advisory Committee to the Treasury on Fine Arts organized the Public Works of Art Project.
Joe Jones (American artist, 1909-1963) Street Scene, St. Louis 1934
Within days, 16 regional committees were recruiting artists who eagerly set to work in all parts of America. The Public Works of Art Project paid weekly wages directly to qualified artists to create works which were then owned by the federal government.
Between December 1933 & June 1934, the PWAP hired 3,749 artists who created 15,663 paintings, murals, sculptures, prints, drawings, & craft works.
The PWAP suggested “the American Scene” as appropriate subject matter, but allowed artists to interpret this idea freely.
Millard Sheets (American artist, 1907-1989) Tenement Flats, 1934
PWAP images vividly capture the realities & ideals of Depression-era America.
Nathaniel C. Burwash (American artist, 1906-2000) New York Pushcart Section no. 2 , 1934
The PWAP art displayed in schools, libraries, post offices, museums, & government buildings lifted the spirits of Americans all over the country.
The success of the PWAP paved the way for later New Deal art programs, including the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project.
In April 1934, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., exhibited over 500 works created under the PWAP.
Reginald Marsh (American artist, 1898-1954) Locomotives, Jersey City, 1934
President Franklin Roosevelt, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, & government officials who attended the exhibition acclaimed the art enthusiastically. The Roosevelts selected 32 paintings for the White House, while senators, representatives, & cabinet secretaries chose works to adorn their offices.
Thomas Flavell (American artist, 1906-1975) Man and Horse, 1934
During the 1960s hundreds of these PWAP paintings were transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where they open windows into the America of 1934.
From The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.