Vibrant works of the us great depression

The US Great Depression spanned roughly from 1929-1945. During this time, fortunes were lost, agricultural disaster led to westward movement, public works projects were launched, the character of the nation was forever changed. This time also saw the dawn of the hobo, riding freight trains throughout the US, a custom that still exists today. Though it was a time of economic unrest, production of artwork was unimpeded. Some used their artwork as a form of photojournalism to document their impression of the times, some were commissioned by the government to paint colorful murals inside public and civic buildings, others continued to paint expressionist artwork influenced by this time in history. This gallery attempts to convey the contrast between these colorful works, and the bleak, black and white photography, and how they all have a common thread that they are vibrant images, in that even if they are not loud and energetic with heavy use of color, they are powerful in that they document a time in history when many folks were in despair.

This image is a depiction of rice production in the southern United States in 1928. It features industrial equipment that was current at the time, also in the background is the wetlands that produced the crop. Agricultural depictions are consistent with this theme because the great depression had paramount impact on farmers. When they could not afford to harvest their crops, the crops rotted in the fields while much of the nation starved. The color palate, mostly greys, blues, and browns, are consistent with regionalism artwork that was dominant in this time.
Here is a depiction of life in rural America. We see a woman bathing in a tub. What is striking about this photograph is the elements of design employed in this composition. We see visual unity through use of vertical lines in the woman's spine, the rocking chair, and the features of the stove. The lamp located appropriately according to the rule of thirds, provides a focal point complimenting the location of the human subject, and the tile pattern on the floor unifies the composition further, drawing the eye all around the image.
This Dorothea Lange photograph of men standing in a breadline is distinctly characteristic of great depression photographic journalism, which Lange was best known for. The men standing in line, with their backs to the camera, create a visual pattern, which is punctuated but not broken by the man facing forward. His head, especially the brim of his hat, creates a focal point. The rails show a sense of space through perspective, and their horizontal orientation creates unity in the composition.
This 1935 piece depicts a factory on a waterway, adorned with a landscape of trees and a grassy riverbank. It appears as a serene nature setting, but in the spirit of great depression imagery, it is a depiction of a factory after all, thus referencing the necessity for a return to industrial fortitude. The river gives a sense of rhythm and movement while the contrast of horizontal patterns and vertical patterns, seen in the trees, gives balance and unifies the composition.
This Dorothea Lange piece speaks volumes of the times represented. We see a man, seated, "waiting for work..." Masterfully captured are the creases on this gentleman's face, which echo the crop lines in the pea field which he is seated in front of. The lines in the background create visual space, and the lines in the man's face, as well as on his shirt and pants, create a pattern and a rhythm that bring this composition to life.
This photograph was the best representation I could scour from Google Art Gallery that depicts hobo train travel, which that custom originated during this time. I wish I could have done a whole gallery based on just this theme. What strikes me about this image is that the human figure is placed center in the composition. This is atypical according to the principles of design. However this composition is sound because the sky occupies two thirds of the composition, leaving the remaining third free to break any rules that will bend... Notice the many patterns seen here, in the train, the rail, the freight... Also, the human figure is depicted facing away from the camera, creating a suggestive state of increasing distance, which is echoed in the perspective of the rest of the content.
In the 1930s, when the dust bowl dried and wreaked havoc on eastern farmlands, westward movement became a popular trend, as told in Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath. This Blumenschein painting depicts a picturesque western landscape that would likely have been a not only new, but hopeful and optimistic sight for downtrodden newcomers to the American West during the great depression. The use of light to create visual space is captivating in this scene. There is a distinct foreground and background, canopied by the great big sky which the west is known for. Also notable is the use of texture in the treatment of the differing forms of landscape.
Blues, jazz, and country music are native to the United States, and they all originated around this span of time. It is my opinion that this component of American cultural tradition is the greatest aspect of our artistic offerings yet seen. It was through these hard times, that this music was created. In this composition we see heavy use of lines: in the trees in the background, in the shapes in the foreground, and in the clothing and on the guitar of the figure in the foreground. These lines create a sense of dissonance that might have been echoed by the hallow musical tones we'd hear coming from the figure and his guitar.
There are many Clyfford Still pieces to examine from this time period, but I think this one depicts the sense of poverty and despair more so than some others that I have seen. Look at the center figure's hands. They appear daunt and weathered, as if to depict the atmosphere of the times at hand. This composition uses the shapes of the figures to unify the canvas, while the background is illuminated with the night sky. These repetitious patterns are very effective in moving the viewer's eye across the composition, while not too busy to allow the viewer to take in the facial expressions of the subjects depicted.
This Charles Ward painting depicts a church house on a hillside, shown in magnificent glory. One can imagine that the purpose of such visual illumination is in reverence towards God. Times such as the great depression, where folks may question their future and its optimism would certainly be a time to depict a church house in its glory, calling the flock to their shepherd. Use of white, blue, grey, and ocher tones in this composition is customary to regionalism work of the era. We see a clear focal point atop the steeple where the sky is illuminated, presumably by God's magnificence incarnated. Use of shape is dominant here, with the building dominating the foreground, and the tree up front echoing the viewer's gaze from the bottom of the canvas up to the top of the steeple.
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This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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