Some of the most famous Great Depression paintings are by American artists. These artists portrayed the life and times of a struggling America, a time characterized by unemployment and poverty. Many people suffered from hunger, dust, and drought. Those suffering from poverty and unemployment were not only unemployed, but their communities were also suffering from crumbling infrastructure. President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded by signing the Works Progress Administration into law, and this agency helped to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and create jobs.
The WPA helped fund many artists during the Depression. The WPA supported the artists who produced these paintings, but many others remained largely unknown today. A few of the artists who benefitted from this government support included Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe. In 1933, the WPA supported artists who used their talents to tell the story of American life and struggle. In addition, the WPA helped some artists, such as the American painter Edward Curry, to create works that were intended to educate the public. Other artists, such as Edward Douglas, specialized in depicting African-American culture and history.
Still was a professor at Washington State University who was also familiar with the daily struggles of farmers during the Great Depression. The idea for this painting germinated in his mind for about a year before being executed in just two weeks. It was inspired by Lange’s photo project of the same time period. Its realism has helped Still’s work instill an enduring legacy. But many people consider the Depression to be the darkest time in the American arts.