Friday, June 15, 2018
Above: "Pelican," a sculpture by Bue Kee (1893-1985), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1940. Kee's nephew, Dr. Dan Kee, professor emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, notes that his uncle Bue was "severely hearing impaired and never finished grade school. He loved everything pertaining to art. As a young man he attended the Portland Art School and was involved with the Timberline WPA Project at Mount Hood. He worked in oil, watercolor, pastel, ceramic and photography." Image courtesy of the Portland Art Museum.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Above: A WPA poster, promoting the WPA book, Birds of the World (1938). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Above: Birds of the World has many photographs - like this eagle, photographed at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., by Ralph De Sola, editor of the WPA's Federal Writers' Project in New York City. De Sola was a bit of a strange character. It seems he was born in 1908 (and died around 1993), attended Columbia and Swarthmore colleges in the mid-to-late 1920s, and "ran a zoological garden in Florida, but the depression broke him" ("Washington," Eau Claire Leader (Eau Claire, Wisconsin), May 12, 1939). He had been a member of the Communist Party, but left around 1937 and became an anti-communist finger-pointer. In 1950 he was involved in the highly publicized senate confirmation hearings of Anna Rosenberg. He joined with Senator Joe McCarthy and prominent anti-Semitic figures in falsely casting Rosenberg as a communist. Their efforts failed and she became Assistant Secretary of Defense (see, e.g., "'Great Conspiracy' Failed in Objective," News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio), January 5, 1951; and also Stuart Svonkin, Jews Against Prejudice, Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 119). An ex-wife of De Sola had also testified at the hearings, and painted her former husband as an "unstable, frustrated writer who resented the fact that he had to earn his living in jobs he considered demeaning, a man who could persuade himself to believe passionately in that which he wanted--or needed--to believe in" (Stephen E. Atkins, Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism in Modern American History, ABC-CLIO, 2011, p. 125). Well, if nothing else, at least De Sola got Birds of the World right! Photo from Birds of the World, Chicago: Albert Whitman & Co., 1949 edition, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.
Above: Another De Sola photo. In addition to lots of photographs, Birds of the World is full of interesting information (some of which is probably dated of course). Photo from Birds of the World, Chicago: Albert Whitman & Co., 1949 edition, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.
Above: The WPA's Federal Art Project provided illustrations for Birds of the World, like this Hummingbird. Image from Birds of the World, Chicago: Albert Whitman & Co., 1949 edition, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.
"Birds of the World is one of the publications written by members of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration... Many books and brochures are being written... As they appear in increasing numbers we hope that the public will come to appreciate more fully not only the unusual scope of this undertaking, but also the devotion shown by the workers - from the humblest field worker to the most accomplished editor..."
--Harry Hopkins, head of the WPA, 1938, in foreword to Birds of the World
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Above: "Parrot," an artwork by Vivian Norman Barto (1876-1962), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), ca. 1933-1934. Vivian Norman was born in Iowa in 1876, married Howard L. Barto in 1915 in Nebraska, taught school in Washington, and worked in the real estate business in Oregon. She passed away in 1962 in Central Point, Oregon. Her husband died in 1974, and they both rest at the Medford IOOF Cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Though her name appears in the final report of the Public Works of Art Project ("Barto, Mrs. Vivian N.," "Region No. 16, Oregon...", p. 85), there doesn't seem to be any significant record of her artistic work or ambitions, other than a small file folder at the National Archives. It also doesn't look like Vivian and Howard had any children. So, perhaps the images on this blog post (see below) can serve as a small legacy of her creative work. (See, "Vivian Norman Barto," Medford Mail Tribune (Medford, Oregon), June 14, 1962; and Find A Grave, here and here). Image courtesy of the National Archives.
Above: An oil painting of a "misty morning," by Vivian Norman Barto, probably also created while she was in the PWAP, ca. 1933-1934. A description for this painting notes that it won first prize at the Josephine County Fair. Image courtesy of the National Archives.
Above: Another artwork in Vivian Norman Barto's PWAP folder at the National Archives.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Above: "Junco," a watercolor painting by Gilbert Boese, created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1940. I wasn't able to find any definitive information on Boese on the Internet or in newspaper archives, but a 2007 obituary reports: "Boese, Thomas Gilbert Wildlife Artist Age 64 Passed away Monday, November 12, 2007 in Region's Hospital after an extended illness. He is preceded in death by his father, Gilbert R. Boese, also an accomplished artist..." And a web page on MyHeritage notes a Gilbert Robert Boese who lived from 1911 to 1970. In any event, the Gilbert Boese who painted "Junco" was a prolific artist in the WPA, painting all sorts of wildlife - moose, ducks, owls, caribou, mink, woodpecker, bobcat, fisher cat, and much more (see a collection of his work at the Minnesota Historical Society). He also did work for the WPA's Index of American Design (see "Gilbert Boese," National Gallery of Art"). Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, used here under license.
Above: Dark-Eyed Juncos in West Virginia. In the winter time, they forage on the ground like little snow chickens, as many as 20 or 30, pecking at the ground for any morsels of food they can find (which I've been known to supply from time to time). Photo by Brent McKee, 2013.
Friday, June 8, 2018
Above: "Great Horned Owl," an artwork by James C. Kulhanek, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. There isn't much information on Kulhanek, but he may be the James Kulhanek who lived from 1896-1974 and is buried at the Emanuel Lutheran Church Cemetery in Henrysville, Wisconsin. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Case Western Reserve University.
Above: A Great Horned Owl in Canada, 2016. Photo by Peter K. Burian, provided courtesy of Wikipedia. Used here under the CCA-SA 4.0 International License.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Above: "Duck Hawk after Widgeon," a watercolor and pencil painting by William J. Beecher (1914-2002), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1940. Beecher directed the Chicago Academy of Sciences from 1958 to 1983, and invented a special type of binocular for bird watching - the Beecher Mirage. (See, "William J. Beecher, 88," Chicago Tribune, August 4, 2002.) Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
Above: "California Quail," a lithograph by Florence Elizabeth Atkins, created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Atkins was born in Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, on August 21, 1876, and died at her home at 1145 Pine Street, San Francisco, September 25, 1946. She rests at Old Pleasant Hill Cemetery (Louisiana) near her parents, William and Mary. Atkins worked for the Western Union Telegraph Company and, according to the president and CEO of the Fenimore Art Museum (Cooperstown, New York), presented her art at "prestigious venues such as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia." Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.