Messages from the past-WPA Poster Collection 1936-1943

Gallery Direct recently acquired the By the People, For the People: Posters from the Works Progress Administration Poster Collection [WPA], 1936-1943.  The artwork produced from this era was the most ambitious U.S. Government sponsored artistic program to date, born of FDR’s New Deal, which was our government’s attempt to overcome the factors of the Great Depression. New Deal programs championed reform through a stronger centralized government and [unemployment] relief through sponsored public works.

The sanctioned Federal Art Program [FAP], the administrative channel for the creative endeavor of the WPA, employed over 5000 artists over several poster divisions.  The subject matter during this period ranged from the hyper-local and regional such as art exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, travel, tourism and community activities; paralleled with the national: wartime propaganda, health, safety and educational programs.  Aside from the rich image history, the collection remains one of the finest snapshots of popular marketing typography from the period.  Having said that, it’s not like our Library of Congress [Americana / WPA] collection arrived picture perfect. Cleaning up the files has been a labor intensive endeavor.

Pictured above [on the left] is the file as we acquired it. Notice the stains, cracks and creases. The image on the right is the polished [300 dpi] version, which is now ready to be reproduced as wall art.  The irony is not lost on us: the WPA is still employing our graphic artists decades after it ceased to be. Thank you, FDR!

NOTE: These images are a historical account, representing the prevailing sentiments and principles of time.  Some viewers may be offended by the expressions and depictions, but then again some of the images are hilarious, too.

Comments are closed.