Art of the 1930s
Drawings and Watercolors of the 1930's
1936…”I went to Virginia and the Carolinas, drawing and painting mostly in garment factories…After traveling in the South…I bought a secondhand Ford and headed west to see the country…The first destination was Cleveland, to draw in the Bethlehem Steel plant located there….It was the time of the great steel strikes of the 1930s and the bitter feelings ran deep….I spent some time drawing in the plant. When I came out, the strikers grabbed me. They insisted I was a company informant and was spying on the men….Finally, the biggest of the leaders just tore up all my drawings and told me to get out of town and never come back again. I spend the night sleeping on the beach on the shore of Lake Erie; I couldn’t stay in any place in town.”
Lewis recaptured the images of Bethlehem Steel, industrial scenes in the Middle West and Jerome Arizona.
“It was a copper-mining town, called Jerome, on top of the mountain, overlooking the Verde River Valley, a beautiful area….In August and September 1937, I used to go into the mines or around town every day and sketch. The mines themselves were fascinating. I would go down with the men, either on flat cars or on elevators, down to as low as the 5,000 foot level and they let me work fairly freely around there…. I got to know the miners….At nights I used to go around to where the men were all drinking and playing cards.. I used to draw them there and talk with them. They were a very jolly, friendly bunch; all were from Mexico…The unmarried miners lived in a dormitory. ..The woman would come up to the mine entrance to wait for casualties…I made a lot of drawings and paintings in Jerome. Based on my experience and working in the copper mines, later, in 1948, I made the Time Painting ‘Mining Town.’ Time Painting is a form I originated. It is a continuous scroll I paint in watercolor on a linen scroll about thirty feet long. I design it to be seen moving through the window of a special viewing frame.”
The Art of the 1930s in this album contains drawings from this trip, including drawings from the waterfront of San Francisco. During the artist’s lifetime, there was relatively little interest in this strong body of work passed along to his family, largely intact. The body of work is a remarkable testament to one of the most difficult times of America. The Time Painting window presents scenes from the Mining Town Time Painting that combines the concept of Asian scroll paintings and the Jewish idea of a personal Torah.
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