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Back of the Yards

1938 Mitchell Siporin Born: New York, New York 1910 Died: Boston, Massachusetts 1976 oil on canvas 24 1/8 x 36 1/8 in. (61.3 x 91.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from General Services Administration 1971.447.83 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 35A

Luce Center Label

This image of a downtrodden family making their way through a landscape that combines urban and rural elements has the haunting quality of a nightmare. It emphasizes the misery that workers across the country experienced during the Great Depression. Mitchell Siporin was sympathetic to these workers and felt a connection with them as a Jewish man whose family had suffered and been forced to leave their homeland. He once said: “I have known depression and war and lived in other countries than my own. Everything I have seen and felt I have [hoped would] . . . vindicate and reinforce my artistic ideas . . .” (O’Toole, Mitchell Siporin: The Early Years 1930-1950, 1990)


Architecture Exterior - domestic - house

Architecture Exterior - industry - railroad yard

Figure group - family

Occupation - industry - railroad

New Deal - Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project - Illinois


paint - oil

fabric - canvas