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Street Scene

1933 Joe Jones Born: St. Louis, Missouri 1909 Died: Morristown, New Jersey 1963 oil on canvas 25 1/8 x 35 7/8 in. (63.7 x 91.1 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor 1964.1.114 Not currently on view


Exhibition Label

These workers are demolishing a St. Louis building as evening falls and street lights begin to glow. In the midst of the Great Depression, modest houses and shops around Market Street gave way to wider streets, graceful parks, and the Municipal Auditorium. The pointed tower of the new Civil Courts Building in the background, built in 1930, shows how the city was being transformed.

A few months before Joe Jones made this painting, he had told the St. Louis Artists' Guild, "I am not interested in painting pretty pictures to match pink and blue walls, I want to paint things that will knock holes in walls." Yet the warm light on the dilapidated street and the industrial smoke that veils the new buildings in the background suggest that the artist did not embrace these changes uncritically. Jones lived in a houseboat on the Mississippi not far from the construction around Market Street; he knew the old neighborhood that was vanishing and would miss the people and businesses pushed aside in the name of progress.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Keywords

Architecture Exterior - commercial - skyscraper

Architecture Exterior - detail - streetlight

Architecture Exterior - domestic - house

Cityscape - Missouri - St. Louis

Cityscape - street

Figure(s) in exterior - urban

Occupation - industry - construction

New Deal - Public Works of Art Project - Missouri

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas