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    Case No. RMW-004

    Lost New Deal Artwork

    (Episode: Washington, DC Hour 2)

    Slideshow

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    • City Landscape, 1936
      City Landscape, 1936
      Oil, by Francis Criss. 25" x 29". Last known location: Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse, 46 East Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN.

    • 'The Nesters', 1937
      The Nesters, 1937
      Oil, by Tom Lea. 6' x 11' 6". Commissioned under the Section of Painting and Sculpture. Contracted: December 15, 1935. Installed: March 18, 1937. Last known location: Benjamin Franklin Post Office, 12th & Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.

      The Nesters mural was originally installed in the entrance vestibule of the Benjamin Franklin Postal Station in 1937. Records report that the mural was removed sometime around 1947 in order to expand the facility or to install lock boxes. The mural was rolled-up and supposedly hand-delivered to the Office of the Supervising Architect, but after leaving the post office the paintings' whereabouts were never officially documented, and they remain unknown. It’s believed that the mural may have been stored in the Washington Auditorium in the Civil Service Building, but the building was demolished, and it is unlikely that we will ever know for sure.

    • Early Documentation of 'The Nesters' mural
      Early Documentation of The Nesters Mural
      The installation of Lea’s mural was documented in the Washington Daily News on Friday, March 12, 1937.

    • Tom Lea, One of Many Noteworthy New Deal Artists
      Tom Lea, One of Many Noteworthy New Deal Artists
      At the time of The Nesters’ installation, Tom Lea, at 29 years old, was already gaining acclaim for his art, and he would become just one of the many noteworthy American artists commissioned under the New Deal programs, including Philip Guston, Moses Soyer, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Jacob Lawrence, Ivan Albright, Marsden Hartley, Philip Evergood, and Mark Tobey.

    • Identifying WPA Art
      Identifying WPA Art
      Since the General Services Administration set out on its mission to track down lost New Deal art in 2001, the project has recovered at least 55 missing pieces, but the investigation is ongoing, and the GSA heavily relies on the help of others, including museum staff members, art dealers, appraisers, lawyers, and even private individuals, to notify them when a piece of New Deal art is discovered and suspected to be federal property.

      What's the easiest way to identify a piece of New Deal WPA artwork? In many cases, it's simply to look for the WPA labels that were affixed to many of them when they were created.

    • A Clear Sign of WPA Art
      A Clear Sign of WPA Art
      Another clear indication that a piece of artwork belongs to the federal government — frame tags that read "Works Projects Administration" — the new name given to the Works Progress Administration in 1939.

    • The Boulder Dam Series: 11 Paintings by Stanley Wood
      The Boulder Dam Series: 11 Paintings by Stanley Wood
      Stanley Wood's Boulder Dam Series is high on the GSA's most-wanted list of missing New Deal artwork. Created under the Public Works of Art Project (1933-1934), the 11 watercolors chronicle the building of the Boulder Dam (renamed Hoover Dam in 1947.) The GSA is currently in possession of two of the paintings from the series, but the rest have not been documented since 1934, when photos of the paintings were featured in the May issue of Fortune magazine. (The paintings in The Boulder Dam Series were never named by the artist himself, but they were given descriptive captions in Fortune, which we've reproduced here.)

      Downstream Face, The Boulder Dam Series
      Watercolor, Stanley Wood.

    • Agitators Going Down to Penstocks, The Boulder Dam Series
      Agitators Going Down to Penstocks, The Boulder Dam Series
      Watercolor, Stanley Wood, ca. 1933.

    • Water Entering the Turret Will Become Power, The Boulder Dam Series
      Water Entering the Turret Will Become Power, The Boulder Dam Series
      Watercolor, Stanley Wood, ca. 1933.

    • Boulder Dam: ADIT Nevada Site, The Boulder Dam Series
      Boulder Dam: ADIT Nevada Site, The Boulder Dam Series
      Watercolor, Stanley Wood, ca. 1933.

    • Knee High to Its Future, The Boulder Dam Series
      Watercolor, Stanley Wood, ca. 1933.

    • Scaler, The Boulder Dam Series
      Scaler, The Boulder Dam Series
      Watercolor, Stanley Wood, ca. 1933.

    • Mixing Plant, The Boulder Dam Series
      Mixing Plant, The Boulder Dam Series
      Watercolor, Stanley Wood, ca. 1933.

    • Boulder Dam: Nevada Site, The Boulder Dam Series
      Boulder Dam: Nevada Site, The Boulder Dam Series
      Watercolor, Stanley Wood, ca. 1933.

    • Powerhouse Abutments, The Boulder Dam Series
      Powerhouse Abutments, The Boulder Dam Series
      Watercolor, Stanley Wood, ca. 1933.

    Date of Incident 1933 - Present
    Owners United States Government
    Location Throughout the United States
    Missing Thousands of artworks created for public buildings under New Deal programs, including the Works Progress Administration, from 1933 to 1943.
    Status Ongoing. The U.S. GSA remains active in their pursuit of missing New Deal works of art.
    Case Summary During the New Deal era, the U.S. Government employed thousands of artists to create tens of thousands of works of art (such as paintings, prints, and sculptures). Since that time, many of these works have gone missing or made their way into private possession, and the GSA's Fine Arts Program is tasked with locating and recovering these pieces on behalf of the federal government. It is the GSA's general policy to loan recovered artwork to qualifying institutions, such as museums or university art galleries.
    Resources Online: GSA's Fine Arts Collection
    Online: GSA's Legal Fact Sheet
    Other Cases

    Stolen Calif. Paintings Missing Wisc. Museum Artifacts Colorado Unclaimed Property Division Missing Norman Rockwell Coca-Cola Illustrations Stolen Artworks from Hobcaw Barony

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