The People Work- Night
22 3/4 x 16 in. (57.8 x 40.6 cm)
Benton Murdoch Spruance,
Medium and Support:
Gift of William J. Henrich, Jr.
Label for "American Scenes: WPA-Era Prints from the 1930s and 1940s", La Salle University Art Museum, March 12- May 30, 2014:
Benton Spruance was a Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts-trained Philadelphia artist. Lithography was not taught at the Academy during Spruance’s student days in the 1920s. He instead learned the technique in the Paris shop of Edmond and Jacques Desjobert while on a Cresson grant study trip.1 Spruance especially liked that lithographs could be economically mass-produced and acquired by people who could not otherwise afford to buy art.
Like many American Modern artists of his generation, Spruance aspired to create work that was intrinsically American in response to the dominance of European Modernism.3 Spruance’s style evolved throughout his career. In the 1930s, he worked in a then-contemporary Social Realist vein and his series, The People Work, shows his clear affinity for the work of Ashcan artist George Bellows, Regionalist Thomas Hart Benton, and Mexican muralists.
The People Work (1937) was Spruance’s first major series. In the four compositions, the city’s workers move through the urban environment at different times of the day—Morning, Noon, Evening, and Night—going about their daily business. The series attracted national media attention and won the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Pennell Medal.
Curator of Art, La Salle University Art Museum