Street Scene

  • Joe Jones, Street Scene, 1933, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.114

Exhibition Label
These workers are demolishing a St. Louis building as evening falls and street lights begin to glow. In the midst of the Great Depression, modest houses and shops around Market Street gave way to wider streets, graceful parks, and the Municipal Auditorium. The pointed tower of the new Civil Courts Building in the background, built in 1930, shows how the city was being transformed.

A few months before Joe Jones made this painting, he had told the St. Louis Artists' Guild, "I am not interested in painting pretty pictures to match pink and blue walls, I want to paint things that will knock holes in walls." Yet the warm light on the dilapidated street and the industrial smoke that veils the new buildings in the background suggest that the artist did not embrace these changes uncritically. Jones lived in a houseboat on the Mississippi not far from the construction around Market Street; he knew the old neighborhood that was vanishing and would miss the people and businesses pushed aside in the name of progress.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Street Scene
On View
Not on view.
25 1/8 x 35 7/8 in. (63.7 x 91.1 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Figure group
  • Occupation – industry – construction
  • Cityscape – street
  • New Deal – Public Works of Art Project – Missouri
  • Architecture Exterior – domestic – house
  • Architecture Exterior – commercial – skyscraper
  • Architecture Exterior – detail – streetlight
  • Cityscape – Missouri – St. Louis
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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