But time of course is a very great editor, and a great publicist. Time has given
those things great value.
Dorothea Lange's (1895-1965)
is a photograph taken in February 1936 and has come to be synonymous with the Great Depression
is the name that the image has been come to be known by. Its caption, provided by the artist, is "Destitute peapickers in California; a 32 year old mother of seven children, February 1936."
In February or March of 1936 in Nipomo, California, Dorothea Lange made a series of photographs of Florence Owens Thompson and her children.
When Lange took her photos for the FSA (Farm Security Administration), she didn't ask for the names of her subjects. It wasn't until years later that the woman was identified as Florence Owens Thompson.
Linda Gordon, author of
Dorothea Lange, A Life Beyond Limits
, says, "When I asked my university students if they knew who Dorothea Lange was, almost all said no. But when I asked them to tell me their visual images of the Depression, many described this photograph."
This iconic image is recognizable because it has been reproduced so many times from textbooks to posters to magazines. According to Donald McQuade and Christine McQuade, authors of
Seeing and Writing 4
, "Since the early 1960s, it has been reproduced so often that many call it the most widely reproduced photograph in the entire history of photographic image making."
Lange's career as a photographer began in 1919 in San Francisco when she opened a portrait studio. She began working for the Resettlement Administration, which would later be named the Farm Security Administration, in 1935. "Lange was working for the Farm Security Administration as part of a team of photographers documenting the impact of federal programs in improving rural conditions."
She held this position through 1939.
"The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created in the Department of Agriculture in 1937. The FSA and its predecessor, the Resettlement Administration (RA), were New Deal programs designed to assist poor farmers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Roy Emerson Stryker was the head of a special photographic section in the RA and FSA from 1935-1942. During its eight-year existence, the section created the 77,000 black-and-white documentary still photographs (also at the Library of Congress) for which it is world-famous."
The photos were to document loans from the Resettlement Administration given to farmers.
The New Deal was "the domestic program of the administration of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1939, which took action to bring about immediate economic relief as well as reforms in industry, agriculture, finance, waterpower, labour, and housing, vastly increasing the scope of the federal government's activities. The term was taken from Roosevelt's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for the presidency on July 2, 1932."
"Lange's photographs were intended to bolster support for the establishment of migrant camps in the area by the Resettlement Administration. On 12 March, five days after she returned home, Lange wrote Stryker that her 'negatives are loaded with ammunition.' She added that the situation was 'no longer a publicity campaign for migratory agricultural labor camps' but rather 'a major migration of people and a rotten mess.'"
One reason that this image is so widely reproduced is because it is in the public domain. The photographers were working for the U. S. Government, and works by the U.S. government were not eligible for copyright protection.
"The images are provided by the Library of Congress for educational and scholarly purposes."
"Lange herself sometimes wondered why this photo in particular became so much used; she knew it to be a fine photograph, but she made others of equal strength."
Lange took a series of six photographs of Florence Owens Thompson and her children. Two show the family in their tent, one at long range, one at medium range. Three showed the children and their mother looking at the camera. The famous image is a closer range portrait with Florence holding her baby in her lap and her two other children facing away from the camera. It was this image that would come to be known as
. There was a sixth image that shows the mother and children in the tent, taken at a medium range and from an angle, but it was never submitted to the Library of Congress.
The version that went on to be printed was actually retouched. In the original, there is a thumb in the right foreground. The thumb was later edited out. The photo that is owned by the Yale University Art Gallery is the retouched version. There was some controversy over the photographs being retouched. Roy Stryker was adamant about the photographs being "truthful" and not posed or altered.
However, we know that Lange did, in fact, ask the children to look away from the camera.
Migrant Mother and Children
, Dorothea Lange, Gelatin Silver Print, Yale University Art Gallery, 12 13/16" x 9 13/16"
Unretouched version showing thumb in foreground, right: Dorothea Lange, "Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California," http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.23845/
In our Photoshop age, we might wonder why retouching or staging a photograph would be controversial at all. "The Anti-New Deal Republicans charged that FSA photographs were slanted."
Roy Stryker insisted that they were not. The photographs were intended to be used as "evidence building a case for federal policy," and therefore any manipulation would be considered propaganda.
Two years after she turned in the negative, Lange retrieved it to make a copy for a museum exhibition. This is when she removed the thumb from the picture. Stryker was furious with this retouching and later terminated Lange.
Lange gives this account of the day in February or March 1936 in Nipomo, California:
I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.
There would later be debate about the accuracy of Lange's description of the woman. The family did not sell their tires. The man Thompson was involved with at the time, Jim Hill, had taken one of her sons to go have the radiator of the car repaired. The family was angry with this description, since a working automobile was vital to the family's survival.
Since Lange did not ask her subjects their names or for any background information, she would have had no way of knowing that Florence Thompson was in fact full-blooded Cherokee. This fact was revealed many years later when journalist Bill Ganzel found Florence Thompson and others who were photographed by the FSA.
There is speculation that had Roy Stryker known that Thompson was a full-blooded Cherokee, he would not have published the photo or that the photo would never have been so popular if the public had known this fact.
Picasso's canvas is the horror of the future ... we see before us fragments of a
shattered world, madness, hatred, despair, annihilation.
by Pablo Picasso's (1881-1973) is an oil painting that was created for the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937 International Exposition of Arts and Technology in Modern Life.
The painting was created in reaction to the recent bombing of Guernica, a Basque town in Spain. "On April 26, 1937, Nazi planes flying for General Franco bombarded the town and machine-gunned people fleeing from collapsing and burning homes."
The town was unarmed and the people posed no threat. Many of the dead were women and children. They had been machine gunned down while they were trying to flee. The mural is 11' tall by 25.6' wide. The painting depicts animals and people suffering and dying. The mural has been called "modern art's most powerful antiwar statement."
Picasso was living in Paris at the time of the attack and heard about the atrocities that took place in Guernica through the news of the bombings. He immediately began to paint the large-scale mural.
"The art historian and philosopher Max Raphael states that Picasso created 'a new form of the ancient, eternally changing tradition of historical painting.'"
The mural is painted in black, white and grey. This use of black, white and grey is called grisaille.
The use of grisaille mimics the style of newspapers making it appear to be news that is being reported.
By using black, white and grey, Picasso creates a feeling of "human suffering and death."
Noel Monks, a new correspondent in Guernica at the time of the bombings, reported, "I was the first correspondent to reach Guernica, and was immediately pressed into service by some Basque soldiers collecting charred bodies that the flames had passed over. Some of the soldiers were sobbing like children. There were flames and smoke and grit, and the smell of burning flesh was nauseating. Houses were collapsing into the inferno. In the Plaza, surrounded almost by a wall of fire, were about a hundred refugees. They were wailing and weeping and rocking to and fro. One middle-aged man spoke English. He told me, 'At four, before the market closed, many aeroplanes came. They dropped bombs. Some came low and shot bullets into the streets.'"
The mural is a collection of striking images. On the left hand side of the painting we see a howling mother carrying a dead child in her arms. Below that, a dead soldier holds a broken sword. On the lower central area a woman runs. Above her is another woman, coming out of a window, holding a lamp. On the far right is a figure with its head thrown back in agony with arms raised. In the upper central area we see a horse. Above the horse's head is an eye shape with rays coming from the lower section of the eye. In the center of the eye is a light bulb. A bull is in the top left corner of the painting. Many art historians, as well as Picasso himself, have commented on what the parts of the painting symbolize.
Picasso said while working on the mural, "the war in Spain is a war of reaction – against people, against liberty. My whole life as an artist has been a continual struggle against reaction, and the death of art. In the picture I'm now painting – which I shall call Guernica – and in all my recent work, I am expressing my horror of the military caste which is now plunging Spain into an ocean of misery and death."
Picasso did agree that the bull could represent brutality, the horse the people, but he objected when Seckler stated that the bull represented fascism. "No, the bull is not fascism, but it is brutality and darkness', Picasso explained carefully."
Brommer, author of
Discovering Art History
, names the bull as a Spanish symbol of human irrationality.
William Powell Frith's
In the case of W. P. Frith's
), the scope offered for this kind of sophisticated picture reading is unequaled by any other paintings of the day.
is an oil painting depicting the crowd at the race at Epsom Downs. William Powell Frith (1819-1909) was one of the most famous Victorian painters of historical genre and contemporary scenes.
has been described as a "satirical panorama of modern Victorian life."
The painting shows three main groups of almost ninety figures. Frith used his painting to represent microcosms of contemporary society.
Auguste Blanchard engraving after William Powell Frith's
, Yale Center for British Art
Frith was born at Aldfield near Ripon on January 9, 1819. He came from a family of gentlemen farmers. Frith proved his talent drawing copies of Dutch prints as a teenager. His father encouraged him to be an artist, and Frith was accepted into the Royal Academy.
Frith lived in Victorian London, the largest industrial and commercial city in the world at the time.
Frith is said to have "made his greatest and most original contribution to British Art with his panoramas of contemporary life."
The first of his panoramas, for which he is famous, was
Life at the Seaside (Ramsgate Sands)
in 1854. He painted
is a large oil-on-canvas panorama measuring 1016 mm x 2235 mm.
It was painting the faces of London crowds that drew Frith to create his panoramas.
Frith considered himself a physiognomist, one who studied character from external features.
Physiognomy is a pseudo-science that was popular in the nineteenth century that explains a person's character based on the characteristics of the head and features. Mary Cowling, author of
The Artist as Anthropologist
says, "It is clear that artists like Frith intended that every part of these pictures should be read, including the human face, its features and its expressions."
Frith's painting was immensely popular. "It was recognized as a unique historical record of a significant social event."
We know that Frith used photographer Robert Howlett to record scenes of Epsom.
But we also know that "physiognomy played an essential part in Frith's art. As one of his acquaintances put it, by definition, artists for whom the portrayal of character was the first aim simply had to be physiognomists. Prevalent ideas about how a particular type would look conditioned the way in which Frith selected and transferred them from life onto the canvas."
Though Frith used a photograph as reference, he constructed the painting using his knowledge of faces and features to create characters from all walks of life. Students should questions whether this is a historically accurate representation.
Life at Seaside
, Frith chose the Derby for his next panorama. "In Victoria's Day the Derby (horse race) was the major national holiday of the year; when even Parliament closed down to join the exodus to Epsom Down."
Frith first visited the Derby in 1856. He wasn't very interested in the gambling, but rather the crowd.
Cowling describes the scene of the painting: "
presented a virtual microcosm of contemporary society, and Frith exploited this to the full, in a jostling, meandering crowd of almost ninety figures organized in groups, each with its own dramatic focus. Every person is individualized in terms of character and class: itinerant acrobats, gangs of gypsies and pickpocketing boys, policemen and fraudsters with their gaming tables. Especially striking are the neglected mistress, whose bored lover lolls against their carriage, and the foolish youth in top hat and checked trousers who has lost his money, watch and shirt studs to a gang of thimble-riggers."
"One critic of Frith's
was most insistent that every figure in the painting had been studied from individuals belonging to the classes which are here represented; and he singled out the jockey, the thimble-riggers, the acrobats, and others, as all painted from life."
What most likely occurred is that Frith had a preconceived notion of the type of model that he should look for, who would fit his thought of how an individual would look. He knew society's idea of a thimble-rigger.
He would then find a model to fit that idea. Frith would have created his characters based on what the public would have expected these characters to be. This would have been based on the norms of the day.
The problem that students would have in looking at this picture is that they are not aware of the "norms of the day" in Victorian England and may have no idea what a thimble-rigger, gypsies or a fraudster would look like. A helpful tool is the chart of drawings, numbers and names documenting each individual in the painting. This chart is on pages 236 and 237 in
The Artist as Anthropologist
by Mary Cowling. Discussion about this painting should be based on whether this is an actual representation of a Victorian era crowd or if Frith painted it to create each character.