Artists respond to the Great Depression and the threat of fascism : the New York Artists' Union and its magazine Art front (1934-1937) / Francine Tyler
Includes bibliographical references (p. 363-402)
Art and politics could not avoid each other during the Great Depression and the rise of fascism, in the 1930s. Social realism, which had been limited to drawings in radical magazines or the graphic arts, became important in painting and sculpture. Artists in the John Reed Club, the Artists' Union, the Harlem Artists' Guild, and the American Artists' Congress Against War and Fascism drew a wide range of supporters and acted as pressure groups, influencing society. The New Deal's Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, which employed a total of 5,300 artists over a period of eight years and had a profound impact on American art, was started largely and continued by the pressure of artists and artists organizations. The Artists' Union, the official bargaining agent between government and the artist, negotiated wages, hours, and working conditions, and kept artists employed as artists, amid threats of closure, "quality control," favoritism, racism, censorship, and selected layoffs. Between 1933-1938, at least three factors favored the artists: in a near crisis situation, the government was impelled to act on artists' solutions to solve their unemployment; the labor movement, aided by New Deal legislation, became insurgent, and provided a role model and support for artists; and all shades of the cultural liberal and left-wing--who would be totally disaffected from each other in the near future--worked together on common goals. Commonality was influenced by radical politics and an idealistic view of working-class--its solidarity, collectivity, and readiness to take action. Engage artists viewed the solving of artists problems in global terms, and with Popular Front ideas, worked with fraternal artists' organizations in Europe and Mexico. A window to this radical shift in artists' subject matter, patronage, and position in American society, is the unique art magazine Art Front. Challenging entrenched hierarchies in analytical writings, indignant drawings, and documentary photographs, it was vital and provocative, stemming from the realistic character of the Artists' Union, which sponsored it.
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