Early Mail Service and Construction of Railroads (mural study, Commerce, Georgia Post Office)

  • Philip Guston, Early Mail Service and Construction of Railroads (mural study, Commerce, Georgia Post Office), 1938, tempera on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the Internal Revenue Service through the General Services Administration , 1962.8.77

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Philip Guston’s mural study shows the history of mail service on the frontier, from the days when sacks of mail arrived on horseback to the coming of railroads and telegraph lines that displaced much of the mail traffic. Artists working for the government in the 1930s considered themselves members of America’s workforce and sympathized with laborers. After Guston submitted his study, government officials noted that he had lavished more attention on the workers than the rest of the image and specified that “The strength of drawing reflected in the two workmen laying the rails . . . is the quality of draftsmanship we would like you to characterize in the entire design.” The bureaucratic process required that Guston submit several versions of the composition to the superintendent of the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture. After he had made the revisions required by the officials, the composition was approved for the post office in Commerce, Georgia. He finished the mural in 246 days and was paid $510 for his efforts. (Edward B. Rowan to Philip Guston, January 4, 1938, SAAM curatorial file)

Title
Early Mail Service and Construction of Railroads (mural study, Commerce, Georgia Post Office)
Artist
Date
1938
On View
Dimensions
12 x 26 in. (30.5 x 66.1 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the Internal Revenue Service through the General Services Administration

Mediums
Mediums Description
tempera on fiberboard
Classifications
Keywords
  • Figure group
  • Occupation – industry – construction
  • Occupation – service – postman
  • Study – mural study
  • Animal – horse
  • History – United States – westward expansion
  • Architecture – vehicle – train
  • Recreation – leisure – reading
  • Architecture Exterior – civic – post office
  • Landscape – Georgia – Commerce
  • New Deal – Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture – Georgia
Object Number
1962.8.77
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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