As part of the “New Deal”, the President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration created the Works Progress Administration or WPA (1935 -1943), which supported tens of thousands of American artists and resulted in more than 20,000 murals and sculptures that decorated public buildings and public space. There was, somehow, enough interaction among these artists to adopt a contemporary style or to generate a novel recognizable style, now called American or WPA Moderne, within the Art Deco creations of the day. Presented here are two pairs of bookends that belong in this very interesting genre.
American Beauty: We see the head and shoulders of a lady on a base. American/WPA Moderne is recognized by her face, which is semiclassical in appearance, and her hairline, which appears as a zigzag lightening bolt which suggests action. The base is covered with a geometrical design of arcs of circles, and there is an overall appearance of shiny metal, both of which are not definitive American Moderne, but are characteristically nineteen thirties Art deco.
WPA Beauty: This lady is recognized as American Moderne in style by her face, her hair and her base. Her face is semiclassical. In American Moderne figures, the hair is sometimes shown streaming behind the head to suggest action and motion. Here within the confines of the bookends, the hair is shown streaming behind the head. The surfaces of the bookends gleam. The edges of the base form action lines. Action lines and a gleaming surface are not limited to the American Moderne style, but they are characteristic for nineteen thirties Art Deco.
The George Stanley Fountain entitled “Muse of Music, Dance, Drama” at the entrance to the Hollywood Bowl is an excellent example of WPA Moderne. This “60SecondHistory – the Hollywood Bowl Fountain” by the Los Angeles County Parks shows the WPA Moderne from a number of angles.