Art During the Great Depression

During the Great Depression in 1929-1939 several acts were put in place to create jobs for individuals. Some of these included the New Deal, which created jobs for the unemployed and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which included the Federal Arts Committee(FAC) to employee artists. Other programs that employed artists included the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

During the Great Depression, the New Deal and the FAC. Artists such as Chester Don Powell were commissioned to create art for the federal government. Chester Don Powell was assigned by the National Parks Service to create promotional posters for certain National Parks. The one that I was particularly, interested in, created by Powell, is the one he created for Grand Canyon National Park. Grand Canyon National Park, a free government service was created in 1938 and depicts a scene from the canyon and Colorado river.


This poster of the Grand Canyon is pretty simple, yet it captures the beauty of the canyon quite well. Chester Don Powell uses several colors to enhance the layering that the Grand Canyon is known for.

During the Great Depression, the FSA commissioned photographers to photograph the life of Americans from 1935-1944. This collection included a famous work by Dorothea Lange. Lange documented the lives of famers, unemployed men and migrant workers during the Great Depression. One of her most famous photographs, Migrant Mother was taken in March of 1936. This photo depicts a mother in distress with her hungry children leaning on her and an infant on her lap.



This photo captures the hardship farmers faced during the Great Depression. Especially for this mother of seven who is clearly in despair, covered in rag clothes and caked in dust and dirt from the drought. The children are also in despair, clinging to their mother for protection and reassurance, clearly afraid of what is to come next. This photograph also shows great detail, from the dust and dirt caked to everyone’s skin to being able to see individual strands of hair and detail in the clothing.

Though the Great Depression was a very difficult time for the American nation, light can be found in songs such as Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries by Rudy Vallée. This song was released in 1931.

This song has an upbeat tune and encourages people to not take life too seriously and that these hard times will pass. My favorite lyrics in this tune are “Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh at it all. Life is just a bowl of cherries. Don’t take it serious; it’s too mysterious.” This song could be applied to life today as well.

Works Cited Editors. “Dorothea Lange.” 2 Apr. 2014,

Library of Congress. “Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California.”

—. “Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives – About this Collection – Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (Library of Congress).”

Post Editors. “WPA Poster Project: Promoting Our Parks | The Saturday Evening Post.” Mar. 2016,

RReady555. “”Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (Rudy Vallee, 1931).” 17 Nov. 2008,

Songfacts. “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries by Rudy Vallée Songfacts.”



One thought on “Art During the Great Depression

  1. I think one of the coolest things about this time was that in Roosevelt’s solution, the New Deal, Artists played such a crucial role. I would have expected that creating jobs during this time would have meant factory work or some kind of industrial work or office jobs. If anything, this proves have important art is, not just to the cultural development of a society, but it has a major role in the commercial and business aspects of a society as well. I think the poster for the Grand Canyon is my favorite of the works presented here. They could have easily used a photograph for the poster, but I think using a painting helps express how people respond emotionally when they see the Grand Canyon. The colors also give it a more fantastical, adventurous feel than just looking at a black and white picture. The other posters in the link for the Grand Canyon poster have a similar adventurous feel. I particularly enjoy Powell’s poster for Lassen Volcanic National Park.


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