The Fifth Year

Media - 1979.119.1 - SAAM-1979.119.1_1 - 53491
Copied John R. Grabach, The Fifth Year, 1934, oil on wood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 1979.119.1

Artwork Details

The Fifth Year
42 1448 in. (107.4121.9 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of the artist
Mediums Description
oil on wood
  • State of being — mood — weariness
  • Cityscape — New York — New York
  • Figure group
  • History — United States — Depression Era
  • Architecture Exterior — commercial — skyscraper
Object Number

Artwork Description

John R. Grabach painted this image five years after the great stock market crash of 1929. It shows an endless stream of people rising up out of New York and trudging across the sky. The man in front gazes out at the viewer from under his hat, while his partner weeps on his shoulder. Paintings such as this, emphasizing the desolate conditions experienced by many Americans, reflect the rise of Socialist and Communist activism during the 1930s. These figures represent the working masses, their gray faces and threadbare clothes highlighting the hardships of the Depression. Their journey through the sky symbolizes their long trek toward a better future.