Lessons for Analyzing Art of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl
Oklahoma Dust Storm - photograph by Arthur Rothstein - shows a half buried house in the Dust Bowl.
White Angel Bread Line by Dorothea Lange depicts unemployed men waiting in a San Francisco bread line during the Great Depression.
Reading New Deal Art and Art Project Ideas
Interpreting metaphorical and symbolic WPA murals.
“Umberto Romano’s History of Springfield
, painted in the former Springfield, Massachusetts Post Office, is inhabited by early Massachusetts settlers on our right and 19th-century politicians on the left. Between them is a man tied to a cross who appears to be part of the present and the past. He seems to thrust out of the mural into our time; but the cross anchors him in the past – to Christian history and to Christ. At his feet lie two war victims, one turned toward the viewer, the other wearing a gas mask. An American flag is draped over their chests…” [For more see “New Deal Art, for the people, by the people,” The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream
The History of Art in the 1930s
Francis V. O’Connor examines the Federal Art Project under the WPA and the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture.
“The Section commissioned through competition the best art it could acquire for federal buildings in Washington, and Post Offices and Court Houses across the country. Regionalist in orientation, it established "The American Scene" as its over-riding theme and local history its favored subject. You might find examples in your local Post Office….The Section's taste for Regionalist themes in its 1,100 odd murals, mostly in Post Offices, resulted in competent but tedious walls depicting rural life and local history. Of greater interest are those it commissioned for federal buildings in Washington, D.C. Among these, Ben Shahn’s panels for the new Social Security Building stand out. Completed in 1942, they were intended to symbolize the goals of the New Deal's major legislative victory, the establishment of the Social Security system…” [For more see “The History of Art in the New Deal Era,” The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream Supplement, NEXUS]
“The WPA/FAP, in contrast to the Section, became a vast relief project for impoverished artists in all art forms. While this preserved the skills and kept alive greats such as the future Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock and African-American painter Jacob Lawrence, it produced…” [ For more see “The History of Art in the New Deal Era,” The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream Supplement, NEXUS]