1934 Leo Breslau Born: New York, New York 1909 Died: Pompano Beach, Florida 2005 oil on wood: plywood 29 7/8 x 35 7/8 in. (75.8 x 91.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor 1964.1.2 Not currently on view
A farmer walks behind an old-fashioned horse-drawn plow, cultivating the soil as Americans have for generations. Warmed by exertion, the plowman has removed his jacket and hung it on his horse's collar. Steeply rolling hills make plowing this soil heavy work. No doubt the farmer's work will bring a plentiful harvest; the surrounding vegetation is a deep green, promising that this is fertile land.
Leo Breslau created a classic depiction of farm life in response to the Public Works of Art Project's suggestion that artists depict "the American Scene." Yet it seems unlikely that the artist left his native Brooklyn to find this scene demonstrating American ideals. The idyllic rural setting of this painting, like his previous paintings for the PWAP titled The American Home, is in the artist's imagination rather than any specific place. What could be farther from the despairing of breadlines in Depression-era New York City or the Dust Bowl than this green, rustic realm where honest work is richly rewarded? The farmer, raising a new crop, offers hope for the nation.
1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label
Animal - horse
Figure male - full length
Landscape - farm
Landscape - mountain
Occupation - farm - sowing
New Deal - Public Works of Art Project - New York City