Media - 1965.18.9 - SAAM-1965.18.9_1 - 1998
Copied Gerald Sargent Foster, Racing, 1934, oil on canvas, 22 1834 18 in. (56.286.6 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1965.18.9

Artwork Details

Not on view
22 1834 18 in. (56.286.6 cm.)
Credit Line
Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Architecture — boat — sailboat
  • Recreation — sport and play — boating
  • Waterscape — boat
  • Recreation — sport and play — racing
Object Number

Artwork Description

With exhilarating speed yachts sweep across the choppy waters of Long Island Sound, the water foaming white against their hulls. In the foreground, three small Atlantic-class boats lean precariously to stay on the course of their race. In the middle ground, a pair of larger craft catch the wind in bellying spinnakers as they sail in nearly the opposite direction.

Artist Gerald Sargent Foster, an avid yachtsman, often depicted yacht races. He knew every rope and spar of these boats, but minimized such technical details to avoid distracting the eye from the clean geometric shapes that dominate the painting. The artist repeated and overlapped the streamlined hulls and taut sails of the boats, creating an elegant pattern silhouetted against blue sky and water. Yet the geometry is not cool and detached—every line and color speaks of the keen excitement of yacht racing. Even in the teeth of the Depression, this sport of New York's wealthy continued to be popular.

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.