The Artists of the WPA: February 16, 2023 Auction Highlights

Lot 116: Daniel Celentano, Untitled, (Subway), oil on board. Estimate $10,000 to $12,000.

Swann Galleries will open the 2023 winter season on February 16 with the Artists of the WPA. The sale marks the house’s third annual presentation of this category. In keeping with past auctions, it features selections of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and posters by artists that participated in the various work programs created under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. 

The majority of art created in the 1930s — and until the United States entered World War II — was Social Realism. Daniel Celentano’s animated rendering of a crowded New York subway car is a great example of this late 1930s realist style of American art.

At Auction February 16: left: Lot 66: Jack Delano, Interior of Negro rural house, Greene County, Georgia, silver print, 1941; printed circa 1960-70. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000; right: Lot 68: Walker Evans, Floyd Burroughs, A Cotton Sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama, silver print, 1936; printed circa 1950. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.

Lot 164: Leonard Pytlak, Untitled (Foundry), color screenprint, 1946-47. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.
Lot 6: Raphael Soyer, The Mission, lithograph, 1933. Estimate $6,000 to $9,000. 

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At Auction February 16: left: Lot 48: USA Work Program / WPA, circa 1936. Estimate $800 to $1,200; right: Lot 257: Joseph Binder, New York’s World’s Fair, 1939. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

Abstract painters were included in the Federal Arts Project’s mural assignments thanks to the efforts of forward-thinking fellow painter Burgoyne Diller. Diller oversaw the mural division of the FAP and deserves much credit for the abstract art created for hospitals, schools, airports, and housing projects built under the New Deal.

Not to be missed are abstract works of the period, including mural studies by Ilya Bolotowsky and Esphyr Slobodkina, both founding members of the American Abstract Artists group formed in 1936. A study for Bolotowsky’s Williamsburg Housing Project mural is included in the auction.

Lot 186: James Daugherty, Study for The Life and Times of General Israel Putnam of Connecticut, pencil, ink & watercolor, 1935. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.
Lot 189: Ilya Bolotowsky, Study for Williamsburg Housing Project Mural, pencil, ink & gouache, circa 1936. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500.

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