Depression Art should strike the same chord as "Pennies from Heaven": a depressing dose of deja vu coincidental with the 100th anniversary of FDR's birth.
The National Museum of American Art, repository for many of the 15,000 paintings, murals, sculpture and craft objects created under the Public Works of Art Project, is dusting off a sampling of New Deal works. Beginning Saturday, the museum exhibits 32 paintings from its collection (one of several small and large commemorative exhibits opening in town this month).
The six-month Public Works of Art Project begun in 1933, involved 3,700 known and unknown artists whose common bond was demonstrable financial need. From different regions and backgrounds, they captured the urban-industrial landscape and the fabric of daily American life of the era in remarkably similar somber tones and dark shadows that reflected the times.
The works' social and historical importance often overshadows the esthetics. The Treasury Department's Public Buildings Service, for instance, restricted its commissions to figurative depictions of American life and reviewed each artist's work at three or four stages of completion.
But the exhibit is representative of Roosevelt's America: scenes of hard work and sharp cold in factories, gravel yards, a grain elevator, a barge dock, Minnesota mines, a rail yard -- all government-funded art.
"ROOSEVELT'S AMERICA: NEW DEAL PAINTINGS FROM THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART," opens Saturday to continue indefinitely at NMAA.