1934: A New Deal for Artists celebrates the 75th anniversary of the U.S. government’s Public Works of Art Program, drawing on the Smithsonian American Art Museum"s unparalleled collection of paintings created for it. Set up against the background of the Great Depression, the Public Works of Art Program lasted for six months, from mid-December 1933 to June 1934. Artists from across the United States were encouraged to depict the American scene, and boost morale through art. The Program paid artists to paint regional, recognizable subjects—ranging from portraits to cityscapes and images of city life to landscapes and depictions of rural life—that reminded the public of the essential American values of hard work, community and optimism. The 55 paintings in this volume are a lasting visual record of America at a specific moment in time; a response to an economic situation that is all too familiar today.
Ann Prentice Wagner, curatorial assistant, Smithsonian American Art Museum; Roger G. Kennedy, historian and director emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History; Elizabeth Broun has been the director of SAAM since 1989