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Jungle

1933-1934 Paul Kirtland Mays Born: Cheswick, Pennsylvania 1887 Died: Carmel, California 1961 oil on canvas 42 1/4 x 75 1/2in. (107.3 x 191.7cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service 1965.18.51 Not currently on view


Exhibition Label

A lush, charming scene filled with tropical greenery and beautiful, gentle animals welcomes the viewer of Jungle. This is no scientific study of a foreign land. The blackbuck at the far left is the only identifiable animal; the others are stylized generalizations rather than real species. This is a fantasy jungle, devoid of biting insects and threatening predators. The painting is as delightfully impossible as popular Depression-era jungle movies like the 1932 Tarzan, The Ape Man, featuring Indian elephants alongside African chimpanzees. The frustrated ape at the center of the painting is reminiscent of the chimps in the Tarzan movies. Like the Hollywood products of its day, this painting offers viewers a colorful temporary refuge from the grim realities of Depression-era America. The parallels between canvas and film are no accident. A few years earlier artist Paul Kirtland Mays had painted fantastic visions on the walls of Hollywood movie palaces like the Paramount Theatre and Grauman's Theatre. The artist wrote to the PWAP that his career painting murals in California had been "frustrated or shattered" by the financial crash of 1929. He was delighted that the government’s art program allowed him to work again "as a decorator craftsman."

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Keywords

Animal - deer

Animal - monkey

Landscape - forest

Landscape - tropic

New Deal - Public Works of Art Project - Pennsylvania

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas