Pioneers of the West

  • Helen Lundeberg, Pioneers of the West, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the General Services Administration, 1985.8.27

Helen Lundeberg created this painting while employed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal program that employed artists during the Great Depression. Like other WPA artists, Lundeberg depicted a hopeful view of the United States during a time of turmoil and uncertainty by showing a dreamlike image of western expansion. The group of pioneers, with their backs to the viewer, follows an ox-drawn wagon into a valley. The monumental figures appear strong and assured in their forward progress. Rising mountains melt into the sun. Lundeberg’s style of mixing fantastic images with reality is evident in the background: The pink, rolling mountains blend into the orange, pink, and bluish haze of the sky; it is difficult to determine where the mountains end and the sky begins. The careful use of space and dreamlike elements in Pioneers of the West is representative of Lundeberg’s postsurrealist style. This movement, derived from surrealism, purposely combined fantasy with reality and was predominantly found on the West Coast.

Pioneers of the West
4050 14 in. (101.7127.7 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the General Services Administration

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • History – United States – westward expansion
  • Figure group
  • New Deal – Public Works of Art Project – California
  • Western
  • Travel – land – wagon
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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