Saturday, November 26, 2016

New Deal Artist Eugenie Gershoy and the "Ill-Fated Toreador"

Above: "Ill-Fated Toreador," a wood sculpture by Eugenie Gershoy (1901-1986), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: Eugenie Gershoy with some of her sculptures, including the "Ill-Fated Toreador," at an art exhibit in New York City, 1938. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Above: Gershoy at work in her New York City studio, 1940. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1964, when Eugenie Gershoy was interviewed by Robert and Mary McChesney in San Francisco, for the Smithsonian Institution, the following exchange occurred:

Mary McChesney: Looking back on [the WPA] period, how do you feel about the government sponsorship of the arts in America?

Eugenie Gershoy: Oh, I think it was one of the most vital, vigorous, and remarkable experiences I have ever had, and I was fully joined in that feeling by everybody who worked on it. I suppose this has been said before, but it was a renaissance of the arts. I think some of the finest work that was done in the United States in that period was produced on the WPA, on the government-sponsored art projects. It was a tremendous thing!

Mary McChesney: Do you think this was true of yourself, that your own work was at a peak then?

Eugenie Gershoy: Oh, definitely! Definitely! I've never been so productive and so enthused and so stimulated by the group activity, too, and the feeling of working together. I think many people got a beginning in their own particular work on the art project, which they couldn't have done otherwise, you see. They didn't have the means; they didn't have the materials; they didn't have the impetus; they didn't have the projecting that stimulated everybody. All sorts of people. In particular, I remember Philip Guston, who had been in a very bad way, got his start on the WPA art project. And so many artists. I could name endless ones who had the opportunity to develop with that beginning. And have developed enormously since. It was a glorious period, really glorious.

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