Posts Tagged ‘WPA Painters’

A winter view of the Brooklyn Waterfront in 1934

September 2, 2014

I’m not exactly sure where this scene of a much more industrial Brooklyn waterfront is. WPA artist Harry Shokler painted it in 1934, in the middle of the Depression.

Titled simply “Waterfront—Brooklyn,” it shows us factories, smokestacks, trolleys, and diners . . . and it hasn’t resembled the Brooklyn waterfront for decades.


“Many artists during the 1930s focused on laborers and industrial scenes to emphasize the value of hard work in pulling the country out of the Depression,” states the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where the painting hangs.

“The smoking chimneys, groups of workers, and tracks in the snow evoke a sense of activity and perseverance in the face of hardship. To Americans in the 1930s, the skyscrapers of New York symbolized the city’s achievements and sustained the hope that the country’s economy would recover.”

Playing in the snow in Tompkins Square Park

December 14, 2013

Is this painting from 1934 or 2013? Tompkins Square Park and the colorful row of buildings bordering it on East 10th Street have barely changed in 89 years in Saul Kovner’s “Tompkins Park, N.Y. City.”


Kovner was a Russia-born painter; like so many other struggling artists, he worked for the New Deal’s Public Works of Art Project in the 1930s.

“The PWAP encouraged their commissioned artists to capture ‘the American Scene,’ and in this painting Kovner conveys strong messages of community spirit and American values,” states the web site for the Smithsonian Institution, which owns this painting.

“Children and adults enjoy winter in the park, building snowmen and playing with sleds; the presence of the Stars and Stripes in the center of the work places this as a uniquely American scene.”