Arthur George Murphy

Lithographs by Arthur George Murphy

Born in Tiffin, Ohio in January of 1906, Arthur George Murphy was a lithographer, painter and educator. He began his initial art education at the Cleveland School of Art. After relocating to New York City, Murphy studied for two years at the Art Students’ League under painter and illustrator Boardman Robinson and anatomy and figure drawing teacher George Bridgeman. 

Murphy worked for a short time as a cartoonist for Chicago and New York newspapers. In 1930, he relocated to San Francisco where he continued his studies at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. Murphy also studied briefly at Colorado Springs’ Broadmoor Art Academy from 1932 to 1934. After his studies, he abandoned commercial art to devote his time to fine art.

In August of 1935, the Federal Art Project was established as part of the New Deal program to fund visual arts in the United States. It was one of five Federal Project Number One projects sponsored by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression era. Between 1935 and 1940, Arthur Murphy worked on California’s Federal Art Project for which he produced murals and almost one hundred lithographs. Included among his many works are lithographs documenting the construction of both the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges. 

During the years of World War II, Arthur George Murphy served as a war artist and correspondent in the South Pacific area. After his discharge from service, he relocated permanently to Connecticut where he taught at the Whitney School of Art, which became part of Paier College, Bridgeport, in 1954, and at the private Quinnipiac College located in Hamden, Connecticut.

Exhibitions of Murphy’s work included a 1934 mural for a public works project in southern California, an exhibition at the San Francisco Art Association in 1937, an exhibition at the De Young Museum in 1939, a 1941 solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and an exhibition at the Newark Museum of Art in New Jersey.

Arthur George Murphy died at the age of eighty-five in Old Saybrock, Connecticut in 1991. His work is housed in both private and public collections including that of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, Philadelphia’s Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the University of Kentucky Art Museum, among others.

Top Insert Image: Arthur George Murphy, “Ballet Dancers, Ballet Russe”, 1939, Lithograph, 41.3 x 29.2 cm, Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

Bottom Insert Image: Arthur George Murphy, “Steel Riggers, Bay Bridge”, 1936, Lithograph, 39.4 x 30.5 cm, Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

Osvaldo Louis Guglielmi

Osvaldo Louis Guglielmi, “Subway Exit, 1946, Oil on Canvas, 76.2 x 66 cm, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University

Born in April of 1906 in Cairo, Osvaldo Louis Guglielmi was an American painter. He was the only son of Talmiro Guglielmi, a violinist and viola player with Arturo Toscanini’s orchestra, and Dometilla Secchi Guglielmi, who returned to her native Milan shortly after her son’s birth. Talmiro Guglielmi toured with Toscanini’s orchestra throughout Australia, Europe and the Americas. After a tour through Canada, Brazil and North America with Russian ballerina Anna Pavolova, he brought his family to New York City where the settled in the largely Italian immigrant community of East Harlem.

At a young age, Louis Guglielmi pursued an interest in sculpture and worked in a local bronze casting facility in the city. During his high school years,.he began in 1920 evening art classes at the National Academy of Design and studied sculpture at Manhattan’s Beaux Arts Institute. In 1923, Guglielmi  left high school to concentrate full-time on courses at the National Academy. At his life drawing class, Guglielmi met fellow student Gregorio Prestopino, who is known for his  social realist scenes of the urban working-class executed  in the style of the Ashcan School . Through their college years, the two men shared a studio space in the city. 

After his graduation in 1926, Guglielmi struggled financially for six years and took various inadequately-paid jobs to support his painting. In 1927 at the age of twenty-one, he was granted citizenship in the United States. Guglielmi relocated in 1932 to the New England area and, once again, began a serious period of intense painting. With the aid of a fellowship, he was able to spend eleven summers at the prestigious MacDowell Art Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The solitude of the scenery surrounding the colony and Guglielmi’s interactions with his fellow artists inspired him and focused a new  direction to his work: the plight of humanity caught in the midst of the Great Depression.

During the early 1930s as the Depression settled on the country, Louis Guglielmi applied for relief from the government. In 1934, he managed to secure meager wages as a painter for the Works Project Administration, the federal New Deal program the employed jobseekers, mostly men and not formally educated, for public works projects. This program subsidized many artists and craftsmen in the 1930s. Guglielmi worked with the WPA for five years during which time he traveled and painted both easel work and murals.

Having seen Guglielmi’s work for the WPA, prominent art dealer Edith Gregor Halpert invited him in 1936 to join the group of artists at her Downtown Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village. In 1938, Guglielmi showcased his paintings in his first solo exhibition which was held at Halpert’s gallery to major critical acclaim. On May 22nd in 1939, he married Anne Di Maggio, who seven years later gave birth to a son.

Louis Guglielmi’s work just before the Second World War were often bleak images of suffering. He spent 1943 through 1945 in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, a time in which he did not produce any paintings. Guglielmi’s existing work, though, was in included in the 1943 “American Realists and Magic Realists” exhibition held at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. After his experiences in the war, Guglielmi’s work changed in style and content; he became more concerned with the formal issues of society: poverty, the living and working conditions of the poor, and the political issues of the time.

Guglielmi became influenced at this time by the work of Fauvist painters Joan Miró and Henri Matisse, and the bold, colorful paintings of his friend Stuart Davis. His paintings lightened in spirit and communicated to the viewer a sense of energy and optimism. Guglielmi’s body of work contains aspects of all the various movements of his time: surrealism, cubism, geometric abstraction, regionalism and social realism. His experiments with form, a major component of his work, set him apart from the prevailing American style of Abstract Expressionism, which in effect marginalized his status as a contemporary painter.

Louis Guglielmi was an instructor of art at Manhattan’s New School of Social Research from 1950 to 1951. Beginning in June of 1950, he taught at Louisiana State University, first as a visiting artist and later in the position of an associate professor which he held until 1953. In 1952, Guglielmi was presented a Temple Gold Medal from the Pennsylvania Academy in recognition of his work.

With the intention of remaining in Europe for the summer, Guglielmi  traveled to Italy in the spring of 1956. However, after four days in Italy, he returned back to the United States. That summer, Guglielmi took his wife and ten-year old son to their new home in Amagansett, a small town located on the eastern tip of Long Island, New York. On September 3rd of 1956, Osvaldo Louis Guglielmi died of a sudden heart attack. A retrospective of his work, entitled “O. Louis Guglielmi” The Complete Precisionist”, was held in February of 1961 at New York’s distinguished Nordness Gallery. 

Note: In January of 2014, Guglielmi’s works, including his 1946 “Subway Exit”, were presented as part of the Georgia Museum of Art’s exhibition “Art Interrupted: Advancing American Art and the Politics of Cultural Diplomacy”. This show was a historical reproduction of the 1946 traveling exhibition “Advancing American Art” that was sponsored by LeRoy Davidson of the U.S. State Department. The  2014 “Art Interrupted” show reunited all the paintings of the original exhibition and scrutinized the U.S. State Department’s use of fine art as a tool in the Cold War. Works in the exhibition included paintings by such artists as Georgia O’Keefe, Edward Hopper, Marsden Hartley, Ben Shahn, and Stuart Davis.

LeRoy Davidson’s intent for the 1946 traveling collection was to exhibit the diversity of American art, demonstrate the power of democracy, and promote good will among the United States, Europe and Latin America. The exhibition, however, received intense criticism from the press. Provoked by the press, members of the U.S. Congress and President Harry Truman deemed the art in the show un-American. By 1948, all seventy-nine works in the show were auctioned off. Davidson was forced to resign, his position in the State Department was abolished, and the entire project ridiculed in the press.

Second Insert Image: O. Louis Guglielmi, “The Amrican Dream”, 1935, Oil on Masonite, 54.6 x 76.2 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: o. Louis Guglielmi, “One Third of a Nation”, 1939, Oil and Tempera on Wood, 76.2 x 61 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fifth Insert Image: Osvaldo Louis Guglielmi, “View in Chambers Street”, 1936, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: O. Louis Guglielmi, “Relief Blues”, circa 1938, Tempera on Fibreboard, 61.1 x 76.2 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC


Will Barnet

The Artwork of Will Barnet

Born in Beverly, Massachusetts in May of 1911, Will Barnet was an American artist whose career spanned nearly nine decades. He is known for his prints, watercolors, paintings and drawings which elegantly depicted figures seen in daily life and dream-like scenes. Barnet’s works were laden with symbolic meaning; his paintings often presented solitary figures with birds set amidst portentous landscapes or interiors.

Will Barnet studied at Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts under Impressionist artist and writer Philip Leslie Hale whose brushwork and palette were influenced by the paintings of Claude Monet. Beginning in 1930, Will Barnet studied at the Art Students League of New York under early Modernist painter Stuart Davis and Charles Locke, an accomplished painter and printmaker who taught lithography at the League. 

In the mid-1930s, Barnet taught at the New School for Social Research and, beginning in 1936, began a long professional association with the Arts Student League when he was appointed the official printer for the school. He later became an instructor in graphic arts at the school and influenced a generation of artists including sculptor and painter Knox Martin, pop art painter James Rosenquist,  abstract-impressionist painter Ether Fisher, woodworker Emil Milan, and Cy Twombly, known for his calligraphic, large scale works. 

As with many of the American painters in his generation, Barnet observed the evolving trends in European art and integrated them into his own vocabulary. He was formal though, in accordance with his teachings, to the basic  elements that form any work of art: the principles of color use, composition, and subject matter. Barnet’s  works encompassed the different art movements of his era, from his early works in social realism to his minimalist works of carefully placed solid colors. 

Will Barnet was one of the few artists, along with Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, who produced inspired work over a continuous, decades-long period through a logical progression of different artistic phases. His early social realist work, produced for the graphic arts division of the WPA’s Federal Art Project in New York, were lithographs and etchings of farm laborers, factory workers, and urban dwellers. These sullen dark-toned portraits depicted the struggle of the depression era and the simple love of family life; they reflected the popular Ashcan School style, also seen in the contemporary works of etcher John Sloan and painter George Bellows.

Well known as a painter and prolific graphic artist by the 1940s, Barnet began to experiment with Abstraction and added more vibrant color to his work. His work, though, never became fully abstract; there was always some presence of figuration in the composition. Barnet became a prominent figure in the 1940s New York art movement called Indian Space Painting, which based their abstract work on the art of Native Americans. Through the 1950s, Barnet’s moved more towards Abstract Expressionism and created more studied, formal works of shapes and color. Near the end of the 1950s, his work incorporated more gestural forms and his attention became more drawn to domestic scenes, which became a major element in his later work. 

Will Barnet’s style had matured by the mid-1960s. Influenced by traditional Japanese color woodcuts, Renaissance paintings, and the newly arrived American Pop Art, his work evolved again into more figurative work with silhouetted forms set against geometrically designed backgrounds. Barnet is probably best known for his enigmatic portraits of family, such as his 1969 “Silent Seasons” series, a suite of figurative work comprising four prints for each season. He continued to experiment with these harmonious compositions of domestic tranquility and produced work in this style for the next fifty years. 

Barnet, in addition to his teaching positions at the New School for Social Research and the Art Students League, also held positions at Yale University, New York City’s Cooper Union, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He was a member of the National Academy of Design and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London. In 2011, Barnet received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in Washington DC. 

Will Barnet’s work is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Vatican Museum in Rome, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, among others. Barnet died of cardiac arrest on November 13, 2012, at the age of 101, in New York City, his home for twenty-eight years.

Top Insert Image: Sidney J. Waintrob, “Will Barnet”, 1966, Gelatin Silver Print, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Second Insert Image: Will Barnet, “Big Grey”, 1987, Lithograph, 32.4 x 24.9 cm, Whitney Museum of American Art

Third Insert Image: Will Barnet, “Gladys”, 1936, Lithograph, 37.5 x 25.4 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Bottom Insert Image: Marc Royce, “Will Barnet”, Date Unknown, Gelatin Silver Print

Harry Sternberg

The Artwork of Harry Sternberg

Born to Russian-Hungarian parents in New York City in July of 1904, Harry Sternberg was an American printmaker, painter and educator. The youngest of eight children, he spent his childhood in Brooklyn  where, at the age of nine, he began art classes at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Sternberg studied at the Art Students League of New York from 1922 to 1926. He rented a studio in the Greenwich Village area after graduation and began a career in etching, painting, and printmaking. 

Sternberg had his first exhibition of work in 1931 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, one of the first exhibitions held at the museum’s West 8th Street address in the West Village area. In 1933, Sternberg was added as an instructor to the staff of the Arts Student League of New York, a position he would hold for the next thirty-five years. Among the students he trained were Charles Wilbert White Jr, known for his chronicling of Afro-American related subjects; painter and graphic artist Isabel Bishop, known for her scenes of everyday life in Manhattan; and artist and teacher Knox Martin, who became one of the leading members of the New York School of artists and writers.

After meeting painter Frida Kahlo and her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera, in 1934, Harry Sternberg became more active in union and socialist causes. He became involved with the government’s Works Progress Administration, WPA, in 1935 as a technical advisor to the Graphic Art Division of the Federal Art Project, a New Deal program to fund the visual arts in the United States. After being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1936, Sternberg spent a year studying the conditions of workers in steel mills and coal mines. The drawings, etchings and paintings from this period, depicting life in the industrial areas of the United States, later influenced the composition of his mural designs.  

Sternberg painted his first WPA mural. commissioned by the Department of the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture, for the lobby of the Sellersville Post Office in Pennsylvania. The twelve-foot long 1937 “Carrying the Mail”, depicting the placing of mail in a letterbox and its delivery, was executed in tempera on canvas. Upon its completion, Sternberg traveled to Chicago, where he studied the city’s history, architecture, and industry for his next commissioned mural. 

In 1938, Harry Sternberg created his twenty-four foot mural, “Chicago: Epoch of a Great City”, for the Lakeview Post Office in Chicago’s West Side. The painting shows the different stages of the city’s growth and its great industries in four areas: steel, electric power, the stockyards, and the manufacture of farm equipment. In the central portion of the mural is a scene depicting the great Chicago fire of 1871; located above that scene, is an image of the vibrant, modern-day Chicago. Due to years of exposure, a two-year restoration project for the mural was undertaken by Parma Conservation of Chicago from 2001 to 2003.

In addition to teaching at the Art Students League in New York, Sternberg also taught printmaking from 1942 to 1945 at the New School for Social Research. After retiring from the Student League and moving with his family to California, he established a studio in the city of Escondido where he continued to work as an artist. Sternberg also taught painting at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts until 1969. He participated from 1969 to 1978 in the Orme School Fine Arts Festival which exposed students to the instruction and work of professional artists. In 1990, Sternberg published “Sternberg: A Life in Woodcuts”, a collection of his prints produced over the years. 

A major retrospective exhibition of his life and oeuvre was presented in 2000, entitled “No Sun Without Shadow: The Art of Harry Sternberg”, at the Museum of the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. Harry Sternberg died in November of 2001. He is the author of two books: “Composition: The Anatomy of Picture Making” and”Woodcut”.

You Insert Image: Harry Sternberg, “Poodle and the Clown”, circa 1950s, Lithograph, 40.6 x 30.5 cm, Private Collection

Middle Insert Image: Photographer Unknown,”Harry Sternberg in Studio”, Date Unknown

Bottom Insert Image: Harry Sternberg, “Chicago, Epoch of a Great City”, 1937, Mural Detail (Welder), Lakeview Post Office, Chicago

Simkha Simkhovitch

Simkha Simkhovitch,”Fishermen”, 1948, Pencil, Watercolor and Gouache on Paper on Board, 73.3 x 45.7 cm, Private Collection 

Born in the city of Novozybkov in June of 1885, Simka Faibusovich Simkhovitch was a Russian artist. He began drawing at the age of seven when confined to his room with a severe case of measles. In 1905, Simkhovitch started studying at the Grekov Odessa Art School, one of the oldest art schools in the Ukraine. Upon his graduation in 1911, he received a recommendation for admittance to the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, which was considered a notable honor at that time. 

Though he began courses in architecture, sculpture and painting, Simkhovitch was dismissed from the Imperial Academy in December of 1911 due to the quota on Jewish students and was drafted into the army. During the first World War, he served as a private until his demobilization in 1912, at which time he reenrolled at the Imperial Academy. Like many others, Simkhovitch was caught in the chaos of the Russian Revolution in 1917; however, he survived and continued his work under the new Soviet government. 

In 1918, Simka Simkhovitch exhibited paintings and sculptures in an exhibition of Russian Jewish artists and, in 1919, placed first in “The Great Russian Revolution” competition with his painting “Russian Revolution”. This painting was added to Saint Petersburg’s historical State Museum of Revolution’s collection. Simkhovitch exhibited his work at the 1922 International Book Fair held in Florence, Italy. Two years later, he traveled to the United States for the purpose of illustrating Soviet textbooks; however, once in the country, he made the decision to immigrate and remain in New York City.

Initially supporting himself by portrait commissions and commercial art, Simkhovitch was hired to paint a theatrical screen for the play “The Command to Love” which was playing at Broadway’s Longacre Theater. This started his career as a screen painter for the theater and brought him to the attention of screenwriter Ernest Pascal, known for his screenplay of “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, who gave him work as an illustrator. Pascal, in turn, introduced Simkhovitch to gallery owner Marie Sterner who purchased two paintings and held solo exhibitions of his work at her gallery in 1927 and 1928. These shows were followed by a solo exhibition of his circus paintings, also at the Marie Sterner Gallery, in 1929.

Simka Simkhovitch moved in the early 1930s with his wife, Elsa, and his three daughters to Conneticutt where he established a studio in his house. There he continued to produce works by commission during the Great Depression years. After a solo exhibition at New York City’s  Helen Hackett Gallery in 1931, Simka Simkhovitch became one of the featured artists at the 1931 exhibition held at San Fransisco’s California Palace of the Legion of Honor located in Lincoln Park. Coordinated by Marie Sterner, the exhibition featured four of Simkhovitch’s watercolors, including his “Nudes”, now in a private collection. 

Beginning in 1936, Simkhovitch began working with the Works Progress Administration, WPA, painting murals for public buildings in the United States. His first work was a 1938 mural for the Jackson, Mississippi, post office and courthouse. Painted on the wall behind the judge’s bench, “Pursuits of Life in Mississippi”, a depiction of black workers engaged in manual labor amid scenes of white professionals and socialites, was eventually covered over in later years during renovations due to its stereotypical imagery. 

In 1936 after winning a competition for the work, Simkhovitch received a commission for four murals at the Beaufort, North Carolina, post office. Upon his return to Conneticutt, he painted the four mural panels depicting the 1886 tragedy of the schooner Crissie Wright, driven onto rocks off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina, during a winter storm, which resulted in the deaths of all six sailors, four frozen to death. These panels were installed in the Beaufort post office in 1938. The completed mural was  later restored in the 1990s by Elisabeth Speight, the daughter of two muralist who had worked with the WPA.

In February of 1949, Simka Simkhovitch purchased a home in Milford, Conneticutt for his family; the property included a barn which was to be his studio. While in the process of moving, he developed pneumonia and died two weeks later on the 25th of February, at the age of fifty-six. Simkhovitch’s work is in private collections and in numerous museums, including the Polish National Museum in Krakow, the Dallas Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art in Washington DC,  and the Whitney Museum in New York City. A collection of his papers is housed in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.

Top Insert Image: Simka Simkovitch, Title and Date Unknown, (Picnic), Oil on Canvas, Private Collection

Middle Insert Image: Simkha Simkhovitch, “Self Portrait with Family”, Date Unknown, Private Collection 

Bottom Insert Image: Simka Simkovitch “Boxers”, 1932. Oil on Canvas, Private Collection 

Bernard Steffen

The Artwork of Bernard Steffen

Born in Neodesha, Kansas, in 1907, Bernard Steffen was a lithographer and painter noted for his considerable output of work as a participant in the Works Progress Administration’s program for the arts. Besides his lithographic work, he produced many murals, depicting local histories, in United States Post Offices from 1934 to 1941.

Bernard Steffen graduated from Neodesha High School circa 1925; he then attended the Kansas City Art Institute on a scholarship. In 1928 Steffen received a scholarship to the Colorado Springs Art Institute, where he and Thomas Hart Benton roomed together. An early member of the Regionalist art movement. Benton became a lifelong friend and mentor to Steffen, whose style and preference for rural subject matter was influenced by Benton.

Steffen became a member of the American Artist’s Congress, a group established in New York City in 1935 to endorse government support for art unions and to promote a social-realist style in American painting. He worked as a staff artist for the Resettlement Administration, and painted murals for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), including one in 1938 for the US Post Office in Neodesha, Kansas. Steffen was a teacher and treasurer for the National Serigraph Society, and worked comfortably in the varied mediums of oil, tempera, lithography and screen printing.

The strong influence of Thomas Hart Benton’s style is seen in Bernard Steffen’s work. There is a strong contrast in the dark and light tones of his works, and his figures are broad and simplified, intended as representations of types rather than individuals.. Steffen was sympathetically drawn to the rural workers who appear in his prints and paintings of the 1930s; and he frequently emphasized agricultural themes. His subject matter, however, does not derive entirely from Benton’s influence, but also from his own experiences while growing up in Kansas.

Steffen also studied with Stanton McDonald Wright, the American modernist painter, who, along with Morgan Russell and Patrick Henry Bruck, were the only American artists to define a common aesthetic philosophy and issue a manifesto. The influence of Wright’s style can be seen in the emphasis Steffen applied towards underlying compositional structure. Like other artists of the 1930s, Steffen produced works which provided a connection between the artist and  his worker subjects.

After his work with the WPA, Bernard Steffen relocated his residence to Woodstock, New York, where he set up a studio. In 1977 he was diagnosed with ALS; however, he continued to produce art by holding a brush in his stiff hand and stippling the canvas. He married painter Eleanor Lipkins in June of 1978. Two years later, Bernard Steffen passed away, with his wife by his side, on July 10, 1980 at the age of seventy-two. He is buried at the Artists Cemetery in Woodstock, Ulster County, New York. 

His lithography and silk screen prints are in the collections of The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, University of Michigan Art Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Block Museum at Northwestern University. Many of his prints are part of the Library of Congress collection.

Note: A devastating fire in 1977 destroyed Bernard Steffen’s Woodstock, New York, home and studio, along with all of his artwork. What survives today are works previously sold or in galleries and museums at that time.

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, Bernard Steffen at Gallery Showing, Date Unknown

Middle Insert Image: Bernard Steffen, “Pulling Corn (Fodder Chopper)”, Date Unknown, Serigraph in Color,, 27.9 x 35.2 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Bernard Steffen, “S Curve”, 1940, Lithograph on Paper, 24.1 x 21 cm, Private Collection

Harry Sternberg

Harry Sternberg, “The Atom”, 1949, Aquatint, 44 x 25 cm, Private Collection

Harry Sternberg, painter, lithographer and educator was born on July 19, 1904 in New York City. At the age of nine he began to take art classes at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. From 1922 until 1926 he trained at the Arts Students League in New York. He rented his first studio in 1926 and began his career in etching, printmaking and painting.

During the depression Sternberg was a WPA artist, and his murals are in post offices in Chicago, Chester and Sellersville, Pennsylvania. From 1934 to 1968, he taught painting and graphics at the Art Students League in New York. He taught printmaking from 1942 to 1945 at the New School of Social Research. Sternberg was head of the Art Department in the Idylwild School of Music and Art at the University of Southern California from 1959 to 1969. He also wrote several books on graphics, including silk screening, etching and woodcutting.

Sternberg received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1936 and his work was included in the first Whitney Museum Invitational Annual in 1937. During this period, Sternberg was friendly with Mexican artists Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo, and David Siqueiros. Other artist- friends were Jacob Lawrence, Philip Evergood, and John Sennhauser, and the older artists, Rockwell Kent, Marsden Hartley and Max Weber.

Note: A more extensive biography and additional artwork by Sternberg can be found in the January, 2022, archive of this site.

Mitchell Siporin

Mitchell Siporin, “Endless Voyage”, 1946, Oil on Canvas, University of Iowa Museum of Art

Mitchell Siporin was a social realist artist who focused on labor issues. After his family moved to Chicago, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (Crane College), and in the early 1930s he worked as an illustrator for Esquire, The New Masses, and Ringmaster. Siporin gained early attention for his Haymarket series of drawings illustrating a notorious labor riot in Chicago in 1886 (1932–35).

From 1937 to 1942 he painted public murals for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), including a mural for in a St. Louis post office that was the largest single government commission. It is among the few WPA projects to show social conflict. Siporin was represented in the Century of Progress exhibition at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, and after the U.S. entered the conflict of World War II he joined the army, serving in North Africa and Italy.

He received a Guggenheim Fellowship (1945) and the Prix de Rome for painting (1949). Siporin began teaching as director of the summer school program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1948. He founded the Department of Fine Arts at Brandeis University in 1954, where he taught until shortly before his death.

Ross Dickenson

Ross Dickenson, “Valley Farms”, 1934, Oil on Canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum

“Dickinson was a young artist employed by the Public Works of Art Project when he created this magical image of California’s farm country. Water, green grass and swelling earth conjure the promised land that John Steinbeck would describe in The Grapes of Wrath a few years later. But Dickinson introduced disquieting details, as if to suggest that danger exists even in paradise. The tiny fire in the field at lower right, probably set to burn dry brush, echoes a massive column of smoke across the hills in the distance. The hills themselves have the orange-red look of the rainless months, when California’s mountains become tinderboxes, and fires can sweep down into the valleys. Dickinson’s painting captures the fear underlying America’s hopes for better days during the Depression.”

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Gerald Mast

Gerald mast, Clare Middle School Murals, 1938, Right Central Panel of Four, Clare, Michigan

Born in Topeka, Indiana, in 1908, Gerald Mast was a painter, graphic artist, designer and educator. He studied at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, and at Detroit’s School of Arts and Crafts, under modernist painter and educator John Carroll, who was associated with the Ash Can school artists. As an educator, Mast taught at the Rhode Island School of Design and was a Professor at the College of Architecture and Design of the University of Michigan at Grand Rapids from 1948 until his death in 1971. 

Gerald Mast was a member of the Works Progress Administration,   a New Deal federal agency which, from 1936 to 1943, carried out public works projects from building and road construction to public art projects. He produced murals for the Franklin Settlement in Detroit; the Bronkema Center in Grand Rapids; and the Harrick Public Library in Holland, Michigan. Executed in 1938 at the Detroit Institute of the Arts over a period of two years, his best known murals  are the four large panels installed in the now Middle School of Clare, Michigan. 

Mast’s four large, vertical panels, each twenty feet in height by eight feet in width, are installed on the north wall of Clare Middle School’s auditorium. The murals show agriculture, academics, the local trades, and the oil and gas industry, all of which were unique to the area when Mast arrived to complete his work; these mural received restoration in 2004. 

The two outer murals in the auditorium are dominated by a woman on the left panel and a man on the right panel. The nude woman,  holding a sheet in front of her, is standing before scenes of prosperous agriculture; the nude man, also holding a sheet, is seen standing before scenes of buildings and oil wells. The right central panel depicts scientists in front of classical thinkers. The left central panel depicts athletes, musicians, children, and nurses, with farmers and agricultural goods in the foreground. All of the subjects in the murals display unsmiling, grim determination.

Gerald Mast exhibited his work at the Detroit Institute of Arts from 1943 to 1963; the Great Lakes Exhibiton of 1938; the Rhode Island School of Design; Indianapolis’ Herron Art Institute from 1930 to 1964; and the National Ecclesiastical Exhibition in Birmingham, Michigan, among others. Executed under the WPA program, Gerald Mast’s 1938 ceramic sculpture, “Sea Nymph” is installed at the University of Michigan. 

Gerald Mast died on August 10, 1971 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Smithsonian Museum’s Archives of American Art contains his correspondence and writings, family photographs, several sketchbooks and loose sketches, exhibition catalogues, and writings, which include his manuscripts for “Egg Tempera” and “Philosophy of Art”. 

Insert Image: Gerald Mast, Untitled, 1964, Lithograph on Paper, Edition of 35, Private Collection

Howard S Sewall

Howard S. Sewall, “In the Garden”, Oil on Canvas, 1937, Timberline Lodge, Oregon

Timberline Lodge is a mountain lodge on the south side of Mount Hood in Clackamas County, Oregon, about 60 miles (97 km) east of Portland. Constructed from 1936 to 1938 by the Works Progress Administration, it was built and furnished by local artisans during the Great Depression.

Howard S. Sewall was born in Minneapolis, MN, in 1899 and moved to Oregon in 1920. From the 1930s to the early 1940s, Sewall taught at the Salem Art Center and at various art studios in Portland and also worked as a WPA artist.

Sewell is well known for his abstract mural paintings which include images of common working people. Two murals depicting iron and wood workers are in the Timberline Lodge collection and Sewall painted sixteen murals for Oregon City High School in the 1930s. Sewall also produced textiles and hand loomed rugs. He died of cancer in 1975.

Arthur Runquist

Arthur Runquist, “Lunch”, 1939, Oil on Canvas, Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration

Arthur Runquist, the elder of the two Runquist brothers, was born in South Bend, Washington in 1891 and educated at the University of Oregon. He was Alfred Schroff’s assistant there until he left in 1920 to study at the Art Students League. Like his brother Albert, he exhibited at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and the American Artists Congress in New York a year later. In addition, Arthur had work at the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. Working for the WPA, he completed two murals with the theme, Tree of Life, painted in 1938 at the University of Oregon.

His painted documentation of the workers gained him a reputation for social commentary. Figures are more prominent in his work than in those of his brother Albert Runquist. Even landscapes were secondary in importance to the people appearing in them. Like his brother, he recorded life on the Oregon coast with sensitivity. In their early works it is often difficult to distinguish one brother’s work from the other. It was only later that their styles began to differ. Arthur’s work was somewhat tighter, more linear and figure centered, while Albert’s work was looser, more painterly, showing atmosphere and effects of light.

John Augustus Walker

John Augustus Walker, “Science and Invention”, Mural, 1935

John Augustus Walker (1901-1967) was a well-known Alabama Gulf Coast artist of the Depression era who was commissioned to undertake several art projects for the Works Progress Administration. Walker’s preferred subject matter ranged from Mardi Gras, fantasy and historical themes to landscapes and portraiture.

The murals are on display in the History Museum of Mobile lobby located in Mobile, Alabama.