I’ve always wanted to assign students to head off in all directions across campus armed with disposable cameras and synchronized watches. Then at the appointed time they snap pictures and take a few notes. The result would be a snapshot of our school at a particular moment in time.
Think about it – there would be images of students taking notes, students on the playground, a student checking in late, some classes working on math while others are learning a song on their recorder in music class.
A cacophony of learning – with the whole representing our school.
So, let me tie in the painting I’ve posted here. The title is Monday Morning in Georgia, and the artist is Gertrude Horton. I love the scene in this painting. Look at the lady at the washtub with what looks to be sheets she is washing. My eye carries to the lady sitting in the doorway with the child and of course, the man in the foreground really gets my attention. I love his stance. There is quiet a story going on here.
The painting belongs to a friend of mine and his wife and when I was in their home recently for dinner they shared it with me and I could resist share it with you.
The painting strikes several chords of interest with me.
First – Georgia is mentioned in the title.
Second – the history of the painting is interesting. The label on the painting advises the title and the artist. It also says the painting was commissioned as part of the Public Works of Art Program in 1934 for the 5th region where J.J. Haverty was the director. The painting hung in the Washington D.C. office of Congressman Richard Ramspeck from Decatur, Georgia. His biography can be found here.
My friend’s grandfather, Thomas Lee Camp, served as a staff assistant for Ramspeck, and at some point the painting was given to him. I would identify my friends but the label on the painting also says “property of the United States government”. I’d hate for the government to suddenly want their painting back, however I think the painting was retired from the inventory and that is the reason Ramspeck gave it to my friend's grandfather.
The Public Works of Art Program was part of the New Deal during the Depression and the purpose was to employ artists. It was the first government program to support the arts nationally.
From December, 1933 to June, 1934 over 3600 men and women took part in a general assignment that asked for works to portray the American scene. The artists had the complete freedom to create except for a certain few pieces. The best part about painting and all of the works completed for this program is they are a snapshot of life in all parts of the country.
The public works of Art paintings are some of the best sources of analyzing how people were living in the early days of the Depression.
A cacophony of life – representing the Depression.
Represented here is just one little sliver of Georgia during that time.
An article from a magazine titled Survey Graphic, 1934 regarding the Public Works of Art Program
My article at History Is Elementary regarding the Coit Tower paintings which were also part of the Public Works of Art Program
The Smithsonian collection of works from this program found here.