wpa art


Grand Canyon National Park WPA poster, 1938 by Tom Simpson

Let Me Do the Talking! Serve in Silence
Homer Ansley (American; 1895–1974)
Silkscreen on board
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Issued by the San Francisco Junior Chamber of Commerce under the auspices of the Federal Art Project, Northern California Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art Program


Mural panel for “Evolution of Music and Musical Instruments” by Lucienne Bloch, music room in George Washington High School in Manhattan, photographed  by the Federal Art Project W.P.A. Photographic Division, approved October 11, 1939.

Will Eisner and the modern comic

For @hansbekhart and other aficionados of Steve Rogers and history, how about a look at one of Steve’s historic contemporaries–Will Eisner, one of the essential men behind modern comics.

Eisner grew up in Brooklyn, and he was born March 6, 1917 (a few days before Bucky Barnes, for an amusing coincidence) and went to Dewitt Clinton High School, along with Bob Kane, of Batman fame. Then studied for a year at the Art Student League of New York, and then became a newspaper cartoonist, with a sideline in illustrations for pulp magazine stories at $10 a page (more economic background for Steve!). He did pass up a chance to draw Tijuana bibles for $3 a page. He and Jerry Iger then started a company which was one of the first comic book packagers. In late 1939 (he was 22) he was offered the deal that lead to his most famous creation, The Spirit. The rest is comics history.

Jack Kirby, whose name should be blessed by the fans of Captain America, was also born in 1917, on August 28. He bounced off both the art program at the Educational Alliance and the Pratt Institute. By 1936, he was working as a cartoonist for the Lincoln Newspaper Syndicate.

Bob Kane was born October 24, 1915, and went from DeWitt Clinton High School to Cooper Union, and then worked as an animator at the Max Fleischer Studios, and like Jack Kirby, later worked for Eisner and Iger.

It’s possible Steve Rogers became involved with more serious aspects of the 1930s New York art scene, or worked for the WPA art programs. But it would also be likely for him to know, and perhaps submit work to the same places as Eisner, Kane, Kirby, and his other contemporaries.

I suspect he’d have had the same inner struggle over the Tijuana bibles Eisner did.

In honor of Presidents’ Day, we’re celebrating a leader with a commitment to the arts. Artists like Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Louise Nevelson found employment through President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. In a 1939 radio address, FDR called MoMA “a citadel of civilization” and “a living museum.” Read the complete speech in our archives

[The Museum of Modern Art, 1939. Digital Image: Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art]

Works Progress Administration sculptor (and University of New Mexico graduate) Oliver La Grone casting “Mercy”

Date: 1935 - 1939?
Negative Number 019936

Two Dancers (1957). Raphael Soyer (American, born Russia, 1899-1987). Oil on canvas.

Soyer was already known for his sensitive portrayal of New Yorkers observed near his studio in Manhattan’s Lower East Side when he joined the WPA Federal Art Project. Soyer was an ardent champion of realism while abstract expressionism dominated the American art scene.