Gold Is Where You Find It

Media - 1965.18.49 - SAAM-1965.18.49_2 - 136192
Copied Tyrone Comfort, Gold Is Where You Find It, 1934, oil on canvas, 40 1850 18 in. (101.9127.3 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1965.18.49
Free to use

Artwork Details

Gold Is Where You Find It
Not on view
40 1850 18 in. (101.9127.3 cm.)
Credit Line
Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Architecture — industry — mine
  • Occupation — industry — mining
  • Figure male — full length
  • New Deal — Public Works of Art Project — California
  • Object — tool — hammer
Object Number

Artwork Description

This painting thrusts the viewer deep into a California gold mine where a sweating miner braces one foot against his powerful pneumatic drill. He is wedged into a crevice, boring holes that will be stuffed with dynamite, which will blast open new sections of the gold vein. California painter Tyrone Comfort brings the viewer uncomfortably close to this miner, stripped to his shorts and work boots in the suffocating heat of the mine. The vibrating drill fills the narrow space with jarring noise and throws dust and bits of rock at the unprotected man. Rough logs are all that hold up the low ceiling of the shaft. Comfort's vigorously painted image leaves no doubt that a professional miner needs tremendous strength and toughness to endure these conditions.

Rising gold prices during the Great Depression caused many old mines to reopen and sent the hopeful across the American West in search of new strikes. When President and Mrs. Roosevelt chose this painting to hang in the White House, it represented a rapidly rising industry helping to fuel the reviving American economy.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Related Books

1934: A New Deal for Artists
During the Great Depression, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised a “new deal for the American people,” initiating government programs to foster economic recovery. Roosevelt’s pledge to help “the forgotten man” also embraced America’s artists. The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) enlisted artists to capture “the American Scene” in works of art that would embellish public buildings across the country. Although it lasted less than one year, from December 1933 to June 1934, the PWAP provided employment for thousands of artists, giving them an important role in the country’s recovery. Their legacy, captured in more than fifteen thousand artworks, helped “the American Scene” become America seen.