River Front

  • Saul Berman, River Front, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.169

Exhibition Label

Saul Berman's detailed, reportorial painting shows workers busily clearing snow from the New York Navy Yard during the challenging winter of 1933–1934. Piles of timbers recall the fleets of sailing and steamships built by these shipyards on the East River in Brooklyn for the United States Navy and for commercial use since the eighteenth century. However, as the empty dry docks along the river in the background show, during the fall and winter of that year New York shipyard workers often had nothing better to do than clear snow.


The old brick building in the foreground displays the Blue Eagle symbol of the National Recovery Administration in its window to indicate that the lumber company adheres to the NRA's codes for prices, wages, and work hours. The negotiation of NRA codes set off strikes in many industries, and the shipbuilding business was no exception. In early 1934, after the strikes were settled, New York shipyards still lacked work and pleaded for federal government projects to keep men employed. A few years later World War II would bring record numbers of workers to the shipyards that languish idle here under gray skies.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

River Front
On View
Not on view.
16 x 24 in. (40.7 x 61.1 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • New Deal – Public Works of Art Project – New York City
  • Architecture Exterior – commercial – warehouse
  • Occupation – service – street sweeper
  • Cityscape – weather – snow
  • Landscape – wharf
  • Cityscape – river
  • Figure group
  • Architecture Exterior – industry – mill
  • Figure group – male
  • Cityscape – wharf
  • Architecture Exterior – industry – shipyard
  • Occupation – industry – lumber
  • Cityscape – river – East River
  • Cityscape – New York – New York
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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