Media - 1981.80.1 - SAAM-1981.80.1_1 - 49067
Copied Mervin Jules, Dispossessed, ca. 1938, tempera on cotton mounted on fiberboard, 17 7823 18 in. (45.458.7 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Charles G. Jules, 1981.80.1

Artwork Details

ca. 1938
17 7823 18 in. (45.458.7 cm)
lower center in tempera: JULES (illegible) frame verso lower right in pencil: -2
Credit Line
Gift of Charles G. Jules
Mediums Description
tempera on cotton mounted on fiberboard
  • Group
  • Figure group
  • Cityscape — street
  • Figure group — elderly
  • State of being — other — homeless
  • Object — furniture — chair
  • Object — furniture — chest
  • Architecture Exterior — domestic — apartment
  • Object — furniture — bed
Object Number

Artwork Description

Mervin Jules’s scenes of the urban homeless showed the desperation of people ruined by the Great Depression. Here, an elderly couple have lost their home and sit in despair among their possessions, out of work, old, and vulnerable. Their long faces and defeated poses express the depth of misery. A tray on the ground reflects a group of workers waiting in line, emphasizing the desperation of the times. Jules was committed to the social purpose of art, and although he confronted difficult issues, a curator described him in 1941 as having “an optimism, tempered with courage to face facts as they are . . . At the core of his optimism is respect for just people and their occupations.” (Harris, Mervin Jules: Exhibition of Paintings, 1941)