The Clara M. Eagle Gallery Exhibition Catalogue
Art and Design
College of Humanities and Fine Arts
As the first major, nationalized support system for artistic production in the United States, the New Deal’s Federal Art Project (F.A.P.) strove to create a holistic vision of art for the American people. Debates among art historians and political pundits alike pointed to the perceived-lack of a truly-American modern art. Cultural critic Lewis Mumford articulated that, opposed to European Modernism, “[w]hat American taste recognizes [is] that there is more aesthetic promise in a McAn shoe store front, or in a Blue Kitchen sandwich palace than there is in the most sumptuous showroom of antiques…” In accordance, the F.A.P. supported artists’ individual creative freedom while encouraging the development of an aesthetic that was uniquely “American.” This new nationally-sponsored American art was championed as being accessible and admirable to everyone, from the farm hand to the First Lady.
One decade prior, a similar program was started in Italy. Since coming to power in 1922, Benito Mussolini saw a need for state patronage of an uniquely-Italian art, uncorrupted by international influence. Nationally supported art in Italy, like later-on in New Deal America, was meant reflect the contemporary native context. Artists were charged with creating a modern art, of their time, that reflected an uniquely Italian aesthetic. In the end, American New Deal and Italian Fascist arts both aspired to make a nationalist art but with unexpectedly multifaceted results.
Gamble, Antje K. and Martin, T. Michael, "Art for the People: WPA Prints and Textiles from the Permanent Collection" (2016). Faculty & Staff Research and Creative Activity. 17.