Art of the ‘New Deal:’ Bold and Boosterish

Is there anything more bold and boosterish than art from the American public works regime?  This traveling exhibit, 1934: A New Deal for Artists — now at the New York State Museum — contains works created during the Great Depression with the support of the Public Works of Art Project, the first U.S. government program to support the arts nationally.  (Above: Valley Farms, Ross Dickinson, 1934 / Below: Charles F. Quest, The Builders, 1934)

Curated by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the exhibit encompasses works done during the period when President Franklin D. Roosevelt put in place New Deal programs to trigger economic recovery, a plan which also embraced artists. (Below: Subway, Lily Furedi)

The program was meant to help out-of-work professional artists by paying them to capture “the American Scene” in works that would embellish public buildings.  Artists painted regional, recognizable subjects that reminded the public of quintessential American values such as hard work and optimism.

The six-month program (December 1933 to June 1934) hired 3,749 artists who created 15,663 paintings, murals, sculptures, prints, drawings and craft objects at a cost of $1,312,000. (Above: Racing, 1934, Gerald Sargent Foster / Below: Sky Pond, 1933-34, Paul Kauvar Smith)
The Smithsonian exhibition website, here.
A slide show of some of the works, here.

4 replies »

  1. They all have a slightly Hopper-ish feel to them, don’t they? The “clean” look, and the treatment of light in some of them too.


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