The Auction (mural study, Pawnee City, Nebraska Post Office)

  • Kenneth Evett, The Auction (mural study, Pawnee City, Nebraska Post Office), 1941-1942, oil on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the General Services Administration, 1982.86.3

During the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal administration commissioned artists to create images of hope, community, and patriotism for the walls of post offices across the country. The program was established to give work to artists and bring art into the daily life of the community. Under the Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts, Kenneth Evett designed a mural for a post office in Pawnee City, Nebraska. The Auction tells the story of midwestern livestock auctions that were popular ways to purchase farm animals as an alternative to large stockyards. Such auctions were held about once a week and were common in almost all communities in Nebraska, including Pawnee City. At the right of the study, a man leads a horse into the auction house at the back, where we can just barely make out the auctioneer pointing to a winning bidder. In the center potential buyers — excluding a young boy who is more interested in petting a dog — admire a group of cows waiting to be sold. These auctions also offered farmers and their families an opportunity to socialize, and Evett included two groups of people on the left doing just that. In its central location above the postmaster’s door in the lobby, this mural showing a scene of local interest was accessible and relatable to all who entered. When installed in June 1942, The Auction was the last post office mural completed in Nebraska.

The Auction (mural study, Pawnee City, Nebraska Post Office)
7 7824 38 in. (2061.9 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the General Services Administration

Mediums Description
oil on paperboard
  • Study – mural study
  • Animal – cattle
  • Architecture Exterior – farm – barn
  • Occupation – vendor – auctioneer
  • New Deal – Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture – Nebraska
  • Figure group
Object Number
Linked Open Data
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