September 21, 2023


Make Some Fun

WPA Period Work from the Dijkstra Assortment

4 min read

Harry Sternberg (American, 1904–2001), Coal Miner and Household, 1938. Oil on panel, 24 x 48 in. Assortment of Sandra and Bram Dijkstra.

The Crocker Artwork Museum is happy to announce the exhibition Artwork for the Individuals: WPA Period Work from the Dijkstra Assortment, on view on the Museum January 29 – Might 7, 2023. Drawn from the Assortment of Sandra and Bram Dijkstra, Artwork for the Individuals focuses on representational portray created within the years between the American inventory market crash of 1929 and World Struggle II. Throughout this period, which led to, and included, the government-sponsored WPA (Works Progress Administration) of the Nineteen Thirties and early Nineteen Forties, many American artists created scenes that represented the nation and its individuals and sought to supply artwork that expressed elementary human considerations and fundamental democratic rules.

Fletcher Martin (American, 1904–1979), Migrant Girl, 1938. Oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in. Assortment of Sandra and Bram Dijkstra.

This extra encompassing take a look at WPA-era artwork options work from the East, Midwest, and West, with a robust illustration of labor by Californians, who’ve typically been omitted from the narrative. Names for the artwork of this era have ranged from Regionalism and American Scene Portray to Social Realism and American Expressionism. 

Palmer Schoppe (American, 1912–2001), On the Seashore, 1941. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in. Assortment of Sandra and Bram Dijkstra.

Whatever the label, what these works had in frequent was every artist’s want to make their work accessible (and therefore significant) to the common public. In making a “individuals’s artwork,” these artists used acquainted themes, simply readable tales, and, often, nostalgia to make their factors, and far imagery of the interval targeted on the individuals themselves—particularly laborers, the poor, and the disenfranchised—together with their actions, their rural and concrete environments, modern modes of transportation, and different topics shut at hand. Their trigger was superior by federally funded arts tasks that additionally championed these objectives and, on the similar time, successfully made artists “employees” themselves. By extension, the artists grew to become visible spokespeople for different sorts of laborers attempting to outlive throughout such tough occasions.

The exhibition begins with examples of artwork from the Nineteen Twenties, as a modernist visible language of protest emerged, and concludes with work from the battle years, when the give attention to illustration got here to be subverted—and denigrated—via an equally politically motivated visible language that sought to privilege abstraction over recognizable content material. Artwork for the Individuals goals to encourage viewers to see works from this era in a extra expansive means and to have a good time artists from diversified backgrounds and locales, with various worldviews and inventive objectives, who’ve typically been missed. The exhibition seeks additionally to place these artists’ work by an historic lens (slightly than the cynical, and sometimes anti-representational, modernist eye of the postwar periodand, by doing so, have a good time not simply the artists’ aesthetic accomplishments however the humanity of their intentions.

Within the Midwest, these work typically documented quickly passing methods of life and the altering panorama. Usually anti-urban, anti-modern, and escapist, a number of the imagery ignored the results of the Despair and the Mud Bowl, indulging as an alternative in a nostalgia for earlier, higher occasions. And but, painters broadly designated as Regionalists additionally participated in an “anti–American Gothic” sentiment as properly.

Artists of the East Coast, against this, most frequently referred to as “Social Realists” or, generally, “City Expressionists,” documented a unique expertise, another deeply dedicated to rules of social justice. Distrustful of the nationalism promoted by the Regionalists, they made artwork that was deeply humanist and featured the plight of the poor and persecuted within the hope of making change.

Within the West, lots of the WPA-era artists have been primarily based in California. Right here, the fantastic thing about the panorama, which had lengthy impressed transcendental beliefs, mitigated the pessimism felt by their East Coast colleagues, although even on this atmosphere artists sought topics that departed from the earlier technology’s idyllic illustration of the land. Their work ranged from nation farms set amid rolling inexperienced hills, to beachgoers on vacation, to socially essential scenes of downtrodden employees within the metropolis. Like their colleagues in different areas, their focus was something however unified, evidencing regional variations by way of material and politics that, when checked out broadly, present us with a better understanding of what constituted American artwork at this pivotal time.

Artwork for the Individuals is accompanied by a totally illustrated hardcover catalogue with essays by Susan M. Anderson, Henry Adams, and Scott A. Shields. 

The exhibition was organized by the Crocker Artwork Museum, the Oceanside Museum of Artwork, and The Huntington Library, Artwork Museum, and Botanical Gardens. The present, which will probably be offered in another way at every of those California venues, will probably be on view on the Crocker in Sacramento from January 29 to Might 7, 2023; at Oceanside from June 24 to November 5, 2023; and at The Huntington in San Marino from December 2, 2023 to March 18, 2024.

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