Tuesday, August 1, 2017

WPA artists of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area, part 5: Art for the people

Above: J. Orlowsky lived on Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC, while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Between 1935 and 1943, WPA artists created 108,000 easel works for public places across the United States (paintings, sketches, portraits, etc.). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Lawrence Pefferly lived on Newton Street, NW, Washington, DC, while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Between 1935 and 1943, WPA artists created 18,800 sculptures for public places across the United States. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Virginia Sobotka lived on Columbia Rd., NW, Washington, DC, while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Did you know that there were art shows for women painters in the WPA? See poster image below. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A WPA poster advertising an art show for women painters in the WPA. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: George Newton lived on Girard St., NW, Washington, DC, while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Shortly before the Federal Art Project was created, one of Harry Hopkins' assistant relief administrators, Jacob Baker, explained the New Deal's attitude towards unemployed artists: "It has been recognized that when an artist or musician is hungry he is just as hungry as a bricklayer and has the same right as a bricklayer has to be employed at his own trade. For the first time in our history, our government has become a patron of the arts, officially and quite unashamed" (Jacob Baker, "Work Relief: The Program Broadens," New York Times, November 11, 1934). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Ralph Cesar lived on H St., NW, Washington, DC, while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. In 1937, the director of the Federal Art Project, Holger Cahill, explained the recent history of American art, and thus, the rationale behind the more public nature of New Deal art: "We have subordinated art to our desire to pile up personal possessions, to our interest in conspicuous display and conspicuous waste. We have subordinated art to our consuming passion for commercial success, to our materialistic will-to-power. We have subordinated art to our love of rivalry, our passion to outdo others in competitive activity and we have subjected it further to the whims of social snobbery, the erratic interests of dilettantism, to arbitrary judgments and irresponsible criticism. And in doing so we have helped to push art from its honorable place as a vital necessity of everyday life and have made of it a luxury product intended for the casual enjoyment of jaded wealth. And wealth has practically stopped demanding the product since the great depression" ("Holder Cahill, 67, Art Expert, Dies," New York Times, July 9, 1960). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Lucy Leadbetter, a model maker, lived on 11th St., NW, Washington, DC, while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. WPA workers, like Leadbetter, provided great assistance to museums across the country, as the Final Report on the WPA Program described in 1946: "WPA workers assisted museums in the making of dioramas, models, maps, lantern slides, and other visual aid devices for extension work in public schools. These workers also assisted museums in the rearrangement and modernization of exhibits, and in the creation of accurate miniature representation of scenes illustrating (for example) the use of garments, dwellings and implements by aborigines and prehistoric peoples. WPA clerical workers assisted in the classifying and indexing of art, archaeological, and historic materials" (p. 63). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Newton Canter lived on Massachusetts Ave., NE, Washington, DC, while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Notice that Canter is working on the same large diorama / model that Lucy Leadbetter worked on (see previous photo). Canter's background painting blends in perfectly with Leadbetter's landscape model work. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Richard McDermott lived on Kalorama Rd., NW, Washington, DC, while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. President Franklin Roosevelt once said, "The Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration is a practical relief project which also emphasizes the best tradition of the democratic spirit. The WPA artist, in rendering his own impression of things, speaks also for the spirit of his fellow countrymen everywhere. I think the WPA artist exemplifies with great force the essential place which the arts have in a democratic society such as ours" ("Radio Dedication of the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, May 10, 1939," University of California Santa Barbara). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Arthur Ramier lived on 15th St., NW, Washington, DC, while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. It's frequently hard to find biographical information about WPA artists, for example, all the artists shown above. But I was able to find a small amount of information on Ramier. Based on various sources (two linked below), it seems he was born on October 10, 1901, and died on October 29, 1963 (see USGenWeb Archives here). He served in the U.S. Coast Guard as a Radioman Petty Officer First Class and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery (see Find-a-Grave here). He was survived by his wife, Manila C. Ramier (who appears to have been a long time civil servant in the federal government), a daughter, Ann C. Ramier, and a brother and sister, Kenneth and Florence (see, "Deaths... Ramier, Arthur Charles," Washington Post, November 3, 1963, p. B11). Interestingly, Ramier died at "American Hospital" in Paris, France, perhaps indicating family connections there (his home address at the time of his death, however, was listed as 4401 Alabama Ave., SE, Washington, DC). Today, there is a Florence Ramier Art Gallery in France. Considering Arthur Ramier died in France, and that he was an artist, and that his sister's name was Florence (perhaps named after a mother or grandmother), maybe the Florence Ramier Art Gallery is, in some way, connected to Ramier and his family. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

No comments:

Post a Comment