Sunday, May 21, 2017

New Deal Bridge Art (5/5): "The Bridge" (plus, the New Deal's 200,000+ bridge projects)

Above: "The Bridge," an oil painting by Raymond Breinin (1908-2000), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. According to his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, Breinin "was known for painting with a dark, brooding palate during the Great Depression, a time when contemporary work from many American artists evoked optimistic images... Breinin didn't set his hand to major works until the advent of the the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. But once involved in the program, he began making a name for himself... He died while painting a theater curtain being drawn back from a stage. On the curtain is the image of a prince on horseback; in the background, the play is beginning ("Painter Raymond Breinin," April 8, 2000). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: Some of the bridges built during the New Deal were large, like the Triborough Bridge in New York City; others were small, like the bridge you see above, near Frostburg, Maryland. During the 1930s, an enormous investment in bridges was made. Here are the approximate number of bridge projects for the major New Deal work & construction programs, between 1933 and 1943: PWA - 388 (usually, very large bridge projects); CCC - 57,424; CWA - 7,000; FERA Work Division - 16,590; WPA - 124,011; NYA - 9,973. This totals a little over 215,000 bridge projects. Some were horse bridges, or foot bridges, or vehicle bridges. Some were new constructions, or repairs, or improvements. Some were overlaps where, for example, a project begun by the CWA was completed by the FERA Work Division. But one thing was consistent: a commitment to American infrastructure - a commitment that, unfortunately, has been replaced in the modern era with endless & fruitless military adventures, as well as gigantic & wasteful tax cuts for the rich. So, is it any wonder that our bridges have consistently scored poorly on the report cards of the American Society of Civil Engineers? Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

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