Arts & Humanities

Georgia Museum of Art features WPA art this summer

“Raising of the Bear Flag,” detail study for mural by Anton Refregier (American, b. Russia, 1905 – 1979) is part of the “Celebrating Heroes” exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art. The mural was done for the Rincon Annex Post Office in San Francisco, California. Tempera and watercolor on composite board. Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Gift of Susan and Steven Hirsch, class of 1971. 2015.23.1.1.

During the Great Depression, the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration served as a jobs program, hiring artists to produce work. The result not only created new inspiration for the public, but also allowed artists to feel as though the importance and relevance of their work was equal to the work of others. President Franklin Roosevelt’s jobs programs for artists produced an immense number of murals that were created for various locations around the nation.

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will showcase three exhibitions that focus on art from this era this summer: “Celebrating Heroes: American Mural Studies of the 1930s and 1940s from the Steven and Susan Hirsch Collection,” organized by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and on view July 6 through Sept. 15; “Larger Than Life: Mural Studies,” on view through Sept. 8; and “Women of the WPA,” on view through Sept. 8.

“We are fortunate to host this finely curated exhibition of mural studies created during the 1930s and 1940s,” said Annelies Mondi, deputy director of the museum. “The Hirsch collection represents many of the important artists working at the Woodstock Art Colony and nicely compliments works in the permanent collection of the Georgia Museum of Art.  Several of these artists competed for the same commissions and it is compelling to be able to view and compare the various submissions.”

Mondi served as in-house curator for “Celebrating Heroes,” which was put together by Patricia Phagan, former curator of prints and drawings at the museum. She also organized the latter two exhibitions, drawn mostly from the museum’s permanent collection.

Jean Charlot (French-American, 1898 – 1979), “Sybil II-Terpsichore (Muse II)-Mary Dodd,” 1942. Charcoal on paper, 24 3/4 x 19 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Jean Charlot. GMOA 1976.3472.

Inspired by Mexican muralists, most of the featured artists in “Celebrating Heroes” are associated with the art colony of Woodstock, New York, and depict conventional and commonplace scenes. They intended through the large scale of their works to elevate the ordinary to heroic proportions, celebrating everyday workers. “Larger Than Life” features more than just New Deal mural studies. By including images of the finished works on its labels, it shows the process by which artists create large-scale work and make revisions. “Women of the WPA” focuses on prints and on the many contributions women made to the New Deal art programs.

Related events include:

  • 90 Carlton: Summer, the museum’s quarterly reception, on July 19 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. ($15, $10 for Friends of the Museum and Supporters, free for current members; galleries open until 8:30 p.m.)
  • A tour of “Celebrating Heroes” by Mondi on July 30 at 2 p.m.
  • A Toddler Tuesday on Aug. 13 at 10 a.m. (email or call 706-542-0448 after July 1 to reserve a spot)
  • A tour of “Women of the WPA” by Mondi on Aug. 20 at 2 p.m.
  • A Family Day focusing on “Women of the WPA” on Aug. 24 from 10 a.m. to noon
  • A discussion about the exhibition led by Akela Reason, UGA associate professor of history, on Aug. 27 at 2 p.m.
  • A film series including “Enough to Live on: The Arts of the WPA” (Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.), “The Grapes of Wrath” (Sept. 5 at 7 p.m.) and “Paper Moon” (Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.)
  • And a walking tour of campus murals led by Mondi on Sept. 5 at 11 a.m.

All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.