In the Roosevelt Time: Penned In

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Pencil, acrylic, and watercolor on paper
44 x 30 inches
Collection of
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco museum purchase American Art Trust Fund and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

The Great Depression revealed the disparity between America’s cherished ideals of equality and economic opportunity for all, and the harsh realities of racial and class differences. African Americans, generally the last to rise economically, often fell first and farthest. Thornton Dial’s drawing explicitly references the difficulties they endured during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His female figure is “penned in” by her subsistence Work as a sharecropper, and also by her limited options in life. Describing his own experiences of the 1930s, the artist stated: “We picked cotton when we got big enough to walk. We go in front of my grandmama and pick cotton, and she carry the sack. We put it in her sack.”  —Timothy Anglin Burgard