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Snow Shovellers

1934 Jacob Getlar Smith Born: New York, New York 1898 Died: New York, New York 1958 oil on canvas 29 7/8 x 40 1/8 in. (76.0 x 101.9 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor 1964.1.22 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, South Wing

Exhibition Label

Many artists went out into the cold to find subjects after the PWAP began in December 1933. Jacob Getlar Smith found men hired by the government’s new work relief program, the Civil Works Administration, to shovel snow from the streets and park paths of New York. Some of the snow shovellers sport crisp fedoras and warm overcoats while others wear battered caps and ragged coats; some have practical boots while others wear shoes more suited to office work. Men used to physical labor stride along vigorously; those accustomed to sitting behind desks walk more slowly, bowed with weariness after a morning spent clearing snow. Black and white, poor and middle class—all had lost their jobs to the Great Depression. Smith showed them gathered into the ranks of the New Deal social programs that offered them all the means to get through the winter. A boy pulling a sled walks alongside the men, a reminder of the families who looked to these men for their support.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label


Ethnic - African-American

Figure group - male and child

Landscape - weather - snow

Occupation - service - street sweeper

New Deal - Public Works of Art Project - New York City


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Jacob Getlar Smith

Born: New York, New York 1898 Died: New York, New York 1958