Radio Broadcast

  • Julia Eckel, Radio Broadcast, 1933-1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.66

Gathering around microphones as in Julia Eckel's painting, actors and musicians of the 1930s created drama, comedy, and musical performances enjoyed by radio audiences across the country. During the Great Depression Will Rogers's humor, Bing Crosby's crooning, Graham McNamee's news coverage, and series like "Fibber McGee and Molly," were part of the American scene. President Franklin Roosevelt explained his decisions to the nation through his famous radio broadcast "fireside chats."

Artist Julia Eckel used tightly spaced figures and controlled gestures to illustrate the close cooperation among star actors, secondary players, and musicians performing live on the air. The painting shows musicians playing during an interlude in the action as the leading lady, dressed in red and green, stands poised to speak her next line. Viewers of the painting, like radio listeners, feel the tension as they wait for the action to resume. Eckel kept her visual drama taut by leaving out such distracting practical details as the scripts and sheet music, which are prominent in publicity photographs of radio performances.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Radio Broadcast
Not on view
40 1855 58 in. (102.0141.2 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Occupation – communication arts – broadcaster
  • Object – other – microphone
  • Performing arts – music – trombone
  • Performing arts – music – saxophone
  • Figure group
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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