Monday, October 19, 2009

WPA art ...

The federal programs of the New Deal era were noteworthy for the level of support provided to the arts, their sponsorship of a wonderful variety of literary, photographic, and artistic endeavors. The Works Progress Administration, in particular, was responsible for a vast creative output during the Depression years ... and other New Deal programs had the ability to call on the WPA for artistic support.

One such agency was something called the "United States Travel Bureau," established in the Department of the Interior in the late 1930s to help promote American tourism destinations. The Bureau enlisted WPA assistance in the creation of a series of travel posters, including at least three handsome designs for Montana. Here's one of them:


  1. This post jolted my memory of a cousin, Art Brown who is buried on Boot Hill in Virginia City. A Google search gave me more than last time.

    I read somewhere that Art did one of the official State badges back in WPA days. I'd love to get hold of that or any of his other work. Montana Archives has some of his stuff, but I've not got over there to sniff around more.

    I understand that he added considerable 'local color' to the VC landscape during his lifespan.

    Funny recollection of viewing a nude sketch on back of a finished painting, at I believe, his Mother's (Sister's, maybe) home in GF, when I was 12. It was a salacious, Hubba-hubba moment for the 4 kids present...mortified Aunt Lizzie.
    Wish I'd inherited THAT painting!

  2. "Official state badges"? That sounds pretty interesting ... and definitely worthy of a post! I'll have to do some digging around, too. :)

    And personally, I'm all in favor of nude sketches! When I was looking up the "It happened in Montana" series that I blogged about recently, I found a figure study that artist had done, as well. It was actually pretty good, and it made me think about an artist's choices -- if they focus on one genre of work because it's marketable, and on others because it's where their passion really lies.

    (By the way, the poster I reproduced today was created by someone named Martin Weitzman, who lived in New York! Wonder if he ever actually saw the Montana that he was drawing ... )

  3. Great stuff, isn't it? I love that era of graphic design more than any other ...

  4. "Official state badges"?

    Seems like it was maybe to promote Parks/Recreation...Forest Service maybe...not an official OFFICIAL badge...I browsed an ebay auction and found 1 that was already sold or pulled off sale before I got there. I was checking Ancestry today to see if I could find Art Brown...not exactly sure of his relationship to my Da...but they were only a year apart in age. I found Art's tombstone in VC, and now have the picture found online. Had to smile at the photo...he's smoking a cigarette and looks like he's just a bit ahead of his cups...or really hungover. In the article it mentions Indian blood...I think that's a myth but perhaps not...Da had rather Native American features but it was never mentioned as truth.