Art for the People: WPA-Era Paintings from the Dijkstra Collection

Art for the people: wpa-era paintings from the dijkstra collection

june 24–november 5, 2023

Drawn from the collection of San Diego collectors Sandra and Bram Dijkstra, this exhibition features a series of works created during the years between the American stock market crash of 1929 and World War II and offers an expansive view of work from often-overlooked artists with a diverse range of backgrounds, locales, and worldviews.

During this era, which led to and included the government sponsored WPA (Works Progress Administration) of the 1930s and 1940s, many American artists created scenes that represented the state of the country and sought to produce art that expressed fundamental human concerns and basic democratic principles. The scale of these state-run programs was unprecedented, and many artists produced works that explored the hardships of the era and the government's response. Given the relevance of these themes to the present day, this collection of artwork holds particular significance.

Known as "people's art," these works were created with the intention of being accessible and meaningful to the general public. They feature imagery related to the period, including depictions of laborers, the poor, and the disenfranchised going about their activities in both urban and rural environments. This encompassing look at WPA-era art features 45 paintings from the East, Midwest, and West, with a strong representation of work by Californians, who have often been omitted from the narrative. Some paintings capture simple pleasures or quiet moments of the Great Depression era, while the majority convey the struggles and hardships of the time.

Art for the People: WPA-Era Paintings from the Dijkstra Collection encourages viewers to see works from this time in a more expansive way and to celebrate artists from varied backgrounds and locales. The artwork offers a historical lens, celebrating the artists and their accomplishments.

This exhibition was previously shown at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and will travel to The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino after it closes at OMA.

Select Images


Celebrate with us on June 24, 2023

Artwork pictured at the top of the page: Fletcher Martin (1904-1979), Migrant Woman, 1938. Oil on canvas, 20.25" x 16". From the collection of Sandra and Bram Dijkstra.

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