Minnesota Highway

Erle Loran, Minnesota Highway, 1933-1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.104
Copied Erle Loran, Minnesota Highway, 1933-1934, oil on canvas, 30 1836 in. (76.591.5 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.104

Artwork Details

Minnesota Highway
Not on view
30 1836 in. (76.591.5 cm.)
Credit Line
Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Landscape — road
  • Landscape — farm
  • Landscape — Minnesota
  • Landscape — season — winter
  • New Deal — Public Works of Art Project — Minnesota
Object Number

Artwork Description

Chilly and brown, this view of Minnesota farms seems at first glance as bleak and unpromising as the Great Depression that gripped the nation. The trees are bare and remnants of snow streak the empty fields with white. Yet artist Erle Loran imbued this painting of his home state with hope. The sky is an intense blue and the fluffy white clouds are blowing away. Streaks of red, gold, and purple enliven the brown tones of the scene. The rapid brushstrokes defining the trees and plowed fields are full of vitality, promising green leaves in the coming spring. The houses tucked among the hills shelter farmers who will care for the crops and reap the harvest. A truck speeds into the distance, preparing to head out of the painting to the right. What is around the corner? Loran demonstrated his stake in this place and its future by showing a sign in the foreground with Minnesota's distinctive yellow star design identifying the highway as Route 5, which ran near his home in the Twin Cities. Then he signed his name on a mailbox, identifying himself with this landscape.

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.