This has hung in 5 different homes of mine over the years, including my current apartment. I’ve long been fascinated with public art created for FDR’s Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. You can view WPA artwork in public places all over the country including Diego Rivera’s murals in San Francisco’s Coit Tower. A common theme in WPA is a glorification of the dignity of the working man, as in this case.
The artist, Earle Wilton Richardson, would have been 100 years old this year. He was only 22 when commissioned by the WPA. Originally he and fellow African-American artist Malvin Gray Johnson (who has a much more extensive catalogue of WPA art) were to do a larger, Diego Rivera-style mural at New York Public Library’s 135th street branch. However, Johnson died unexpectedly of illness in late 1934. They were a couple and severe depression over his partner’s death led Richardson to suicide in early 1935.