Filling the Ice House

  • Harry Gottlieb, Filling the Ice House, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.19

Exhibition Label

As workers like these knew well, it was cold, hard work filling the icehouses of upstate New York. In January 1934, artist Harry Gottlieb signed on with the PWAP and looked for American workers he could paint near his home in the artists' colony of Woodstock, New York. He found these men harvesting ice off lakes and streams as local men had done every winter since the early 1800s. They sawed the thick layer of natural ice into long strips and then cut off large blocks. As Gottlieb's painting shows, the red-faced workers dressed in warm coats used long hooks and wooden ramps to maneuver the slick, heavy ice into large commercial icehouses where they neatly stacked the blocks. Straw or sawdust packing minimized melting in warm weather. Throughout the year icehouses along the Hudson River stored ice that was shipped by train to New York City. Families and grocers put the ice into insulated iceboxes that kept food from spoiling. Artificial freezing dominated ice production after World War I, and then electric refrigerators became popular. When Gottlieb documented the natural ice business it was gradually melting away.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Title
Filling the Ice House
Artist
Date
1934
On View
Not on view.
Dimensions
40 3/8 x 60 3/8 in. (102.5 x 153.4 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
Classifications
Keywords
  • New Deal – Public Works of Art Project – New York State
  • Figure group – male
  • Occupation – industry – ice cutting
Object Number
1964.1.19
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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