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King Capital forbits the rising tight (of the poor)

1931 E. Stearns oil on cardboard 17 7/8 x 23 7/8 in. (45.4 x 60.5 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson 1986.65.141 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 24A

Luce Center Label

E. Stearns created this painting two years after the Wall Street crash left many Americans unemployed and desperate. The image shows “King Capital” raising his hand in a feeble attempt to stop the crowd of angry people descending from the sky. The mass of anonymous heads and arms represent all the people who suffered during the Depression, while the glamorously dressed figures symbolize the wealthy, watching in horror as the mob advances.


Allegory - civic - injustice

Allegory - quality - poverty

Allegory - quality - wealth

Figure group

Occupation - other - aristocrat

Waterscape - coast


folk art

paint - oil