The great depression left America wounded both morally and financially. As a result of this President Franklin Roosevelt implemented a series of programs and promises labelled the New Deal. Its objective was largely to alleviate pressure on the economy created by the great depression and to boost the moral of the American people especially the labourers and workers.
The Treasury Department, under the New Deal commissioned artists to create murals and sculptures for postal facilities across America. They were selected by way of competition, which led to some of the most talented artists working for the New Deal.
One of those artists was Harry Sternberg. In 1935 he was appointed technical advisor of the Graphic Art Division, Federal Art Project (FAP) were he became politically active in union and socialist causes. The following year he spent time studying the conditions of workers in steel mills and coal mines which was more than enough inspiration for many of his works.
Sterberg’s murals depicted workers in heroic posses and labouring in unison toward the completion of a public project. They were often very busy with vector lines dissecting the mural creating energy and life. This feeling was enhanced by his quick brush stokes and use of positive and negative space. The works were sometimes overcrowded but for the most part achieved harmony and balance through a contrast between light and dark colours and tones.
To me Sternberg was one of the great contibuters to the New Deal due to his studies within the steel mill and coal mining communities. He was at the forefront of social commentary portraying the culture and character of Blue collar America as one of unity and strength.