"Ah, Wilderness!" Federal Theatre Playhouse, Tulane & Miro Streets
Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of "Ah, Wilderness!" at the WPA Federal Theatre Playhouse, Tulane & Miro Streets, Los Angeles, Calif., showing a couple in Victorian dress.
Work Projects Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress).
WPA Posters were created to advertise programs and projects of the Works Projects Administration in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This is considered as one of the first U.S. Government programs to support the arts. The posters were designed to publicize exhibits, community activities, theatrical productions, and health and educational programs. During the Great Depression, the U.S. government employed hundreds of artists to promote New Deal - related social programs. Of the 2,000 WPA posters known to exist, the Library of Congress's collection comprises of more than 900. Posters represent seventeen U.S. states and the District of Columbia, with the strongest representation from California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and provide a unique snapshot of an important era in America’s history. WPA poster artists were not supposed to sign their work, but Christopher DeNoon's original book on this subject gives many clues. Vera Bock Born 1905, St. Petersburg, Russia, emigrated to the United States with her mother, Russian-born concert pianist, and her father, an American banker. She studied in England during where she learned printing, photoengraving, manuscript illuminating, and wood engraving. In the 1920s, she illustrated children's books such as The Adventure of Maya Bee. Her posters are notable for their distinctive woodblock-like appearance, solid forms, and Germanic influence. During the 1940s she worked as an illustrator at Life and Coronet magazines. She continued to produce book illustration and design including Little Magic Horse (1942), A Ring and A Riddle (1944), and Critical History of Children's Literature (1953). Richard Floethe Born 1901, Essen Germany, studied at the Dortmund Art School, the Munich State School of Art, and the Bauhaus in Weimer. His posters reflect his connection to the Bauhaus. Richard Floethe spent much of his career as a book illustrator. He has designed or illustrated over fifty books including Ballet Shows (1937), Picture Book of the Earth (1949), and Ting-a-Ling Tales (1955). His designs and illustrations for Tyl Ulenspeigl (1935) and Pinocchio (1938) won the Limited Editions Club Prize. He has also illustrated books written by his wife, Louise Floethe. Among these titles are If I Were Captain (1956) and Winning Colt (1956). Floethe assigned as administrator of the New York City FAP poster division from 1936 to 1939 and remembered by designers as the creator of an encouraging environment so artists were free to experiment. Floethe taught commercial design at the Cooper Union School of Art (1941) and illustration at the Ringling School of Art (1955-1967). His work as a printmaker (woodcuts and serigraphs) is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Kerlan Collection of the University of Minnesota. Richard Hall's Born 1906, New Orleans, Louisiana, spent his early years traveling through the U.S. and Europe with his father, a sculptor whose commissions included many public monuments. While working for FAP, he created posters for the Federal Theatre Project. From 1952 to 1976 Halls taught advertising art and design on the faculty of the State University if New York at Farmingdale. He received his B.A. from Adelphi University in 1961. Robert Jones Born 1913, Goff, Kansas, educated at the University of Utah and the California School of Fine Art and employed by the State Art Center in Salt Lake City in 1939 and 1940. After leaving Utah in 1940, Jones established his career in New York City where he worked for Life magazine and Columbia Records. Jones was an instructor at the Cooper Union School of Art and the University of Connecticut. He was the art director for RCA Records from 1953 to 1973. Erik Hans Krause Born 1899, Halle-Salle, Germany, graduated from the Academy of Decorative Arts and Crafts in Dresden and emigrated to the United States in 1923. In 1936 was employed with the FAP, supervising artists and craftsmen designing textiles and posters. His botanical subjects paintings were shown at the Smithsonian Institution. Krause has taught design and illustration at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Katherine Milhous Born 1894, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and educated at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Katherine Milhous created some of the most distinctive posters produced by the WPA. She was a supervisor of the FAP in Philadelphia. Milhous incorporated the folk traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish and Mennonites communities in her poster designs. After FAP, she had a successful career as a children's book illustrator. She received the American Library Association's Caldecott Medal for her most distinguished picture book for children for The Egg Tree (1950). Jerome Henry Roth Born 1918, Bronx, New York, Jerome Henry Roth (Rothstein) was the youngest member of the project at the age of 16 while attending Art Students' League. Roth was employed by the FAP from 1935 to 1939. After serving in Europe during World War II as a B-15 navigator, he returned to New York and in the early 1950s formed his own design studio and taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the College of the City of New York. Anthony Velonis Born 1911, New York, New York, graduated from New York University's School of Fine Arts, joined Mayor LaGuardia's poster project in New York City in 1934. In 1935 this project came under federal sponsorship and Velonis remained with the division until 1938. After leaving the poster division, Velonis worked in the FAP graphic art division where he continued to experiment with silkscreening techniques. Velonis' poster designs are marked by cubist-influenced elements and his experiments with printing techniques: split-font applications of paint, and applications of tusche crayon directly to the screen. In 1939 Velonis co-founded the Creative Printmaking Group and started the Ceraglass Company, which invented silkscreen printing on glass and plastic containers. His prints are included in the collections of the National Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Australian National Gallery and others.