Skating in Central Park

Agnes Tait, Skating in Central Park, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.15
Copied Agnes Tait, Skating in Central Park, 1934, oil on canvas, 33 3448 in. (85.8121.8 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.15

Artwork Details

Skating in Central Park
33 3448 in. (85.8121.8 cm)
Credit Line
Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Figure group
  • Cityscape — New York — New York
  • Cityscape — season — winter
  • Landscape — park — Central Park
  • Recreation — sport and play — skating
  • New Deal — Public Works of Art Project — New York City
  • Architecture Exterior — commercial — skyscraper
Object Number

Artwork Description

Agnes Tait had long wanted to make a large, festive painting of winter revelers in Central Park, but without a patron she could not take on this project. When the Public Works of Art Project gave her support in the winter of 1933–1934, the artist had her opportunity. As skaters and sledders flocked to the frozen lake and snowy slopes of Central Park, Tait joined them to sketch the winter fun. Then she retreated to her studio to make her painting.

Tait showed the park in late afternoon as the Manhattan sky began to blush and the street lamps to glow, but skating and sledding were still in full swing. Once she had the landscape painted, Tait added figures in groups to create a colorful pattern against the snow and ice. The dark branches of the bare trees make a more subtle design against the white snow and mist and the golden sky. Around the ends of tree branches and in patches along the snowbanks, Tait painted areas of gray into which she drew snow-covered twigs and grasses by scraping away the gray paint with the end of her paintbrush.

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.