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Black Panther

1934 Alice Dinneen Born: New York, New York 1908 oil on canvas 30 1/8 x 24 1/8 in. (76.5 x 61.4 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor 1964.1.89 Not currently on view

Exhibition Label

A black panther surrounded by tropical foliage hardly seems part of "the American Scene" that Public Works of Art Project artists were asked to depict. Yet the artist's taste for the exotic was common in an era when American city dwellers longed for the momentary escape provided by movies, plays, radio shows, and even the zoo. New Yorkers like Alice Dinneen found all these resources close at hand. She explained to the PWAP, "I am making studies of animals from life at the Bronx Zoo, and tropical plants, which I will compose together." The New York Botanical Garden, conveniently located next to the zoo, provided plants for Dinneen to study. A palm and a banana plant stand in the background, while an elephant ear and a caladium sprout just behind the reclining cat. Prayer plants add bright red and green touches to the lower corners of the painting. Grouping these common, imported plants around the reclining panther whose relatives roamed distant Africa and Asia, Dinneen created an appealingly lush imaginary retreat.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label


Animal - panther

Landscape - tropic

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


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Alice Dinneen

Born: New York, New York 1908