The crash of the stock market on October 29th, 1929 ushered in an era of severe economic decline across the United States. In an effort to support those in need, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 created the Works Progress Administration, a program that endeavored to aid artists by putting them back to work.
The Graphic Arts Division of the program was among the most active, employing over 790 artists across the country. By far the largest was the workshop in New York City, which is estimated to have produced around 75,000 prints.
Unlike other artists who worked for the WPA, including well-known modernists like Stuart Davis and Louis Lozowick, Ann Nooney is not a household name and very little is known about her life. Like many of her peers, however, Nooney was drawn to scenes of urban labor, including this ambitious color lithograph of an apron-clad worker, who has stepped out onto the sidewalk after a long day’s work. Gazing out at an already dark and virtually empty street, the man is spotlighted by an incandescent overhead lamp.
You can see more WPA art in the NYPL's Digital Collection.
As part of our month-long Dear NYC series, we're looking at New York City gems hidden away at the New York Public Library. The NYPL’s four research centers offer the public access to over 55 million items, including rare books, manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs, prints, maps, ephemera, and more. Integral to these robust collections is the Library’s extensive material related to New York City, and as NY works to come together, cope, heal and recover from the 2020 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and the many issues that divide us, it is important to look at that history and remember: New York is resilient. New York is strong. New York has seen its share of hard times. And, as always, with Patience and Fortitude (the names given to the Library’s beloved lions in 1933 by Mayor LaGuardia for the virtues New Yorkers needed to get through the Great Depression) we will get through it, together.