Back of the Yards

Media - 1971.447.83 - SAAM-1971.447.83_1 - 4127
Copied Mitchell Siporin, Back of the Yards, 1938, oil on canvas, 24 1836 18 in. (61.391.7 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from General Services Administration, 1971.447.83

Artwork Details

Back of the Yards
24 1836 18 in. (61.391.7 cm)
Credit Line
Transfer from General Services Administration
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Figure group — family
  • Occupation — industry — railroad
  • New Deal — Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project — Illinois
  • Architecture Exterior — domestic — house
  • Architecture Exterior — industry — railroad yard
Object Number

Artwork Description

This image of a downtrodden family making their way through a landscape that combines urban and rural elements has the haunting quality of a nightmare. It emphasizes the misery that workers across the country experienced during the Great Depression. Mitchell Siporin was sympathetic to these workers and felt a connection with them as a Jewish man whose family had suffered and been forced to leave their homeland. He once said: “I have known depression and war and lived in other countries than my own. Everything I have seen and felt I have [hoped would] . . . vindicate and reinforce my artistic ideas . . .” (O’Toole, Mitchell Siporin: The Early Years 1930-1950, 1990)