Textile (USA), ca. 1935
Medium: cotton Technique: printed on plain weave Label: printed cotton. Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund. 1988-55-1.
What is this?
Length of printed cotton with a photo-montage of New York City buildings, bridges and sites, in red on white. Includes the Chrysler, Empire State and Woolworth buildings, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, Grand Central Terminal, and the old Penn Station.
Why is this important?
The designer and manufacturer of this textile are unknown, but the subject is telling of the cultural climate that produced it. The photo-collage pattern clearly depicts New York City architecture, from older landmarks like the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, to brand new skyscrapers like the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. By depicting dynamic scenes of America’s most glamorous city, seeks to set a distinctively American national style.
The conspicuously factual approach also functioned as a morale booster, much like the murals produced and funded by the Works Progress Administration in the same period. In a time of woeful economic depression, highlighting American accomplishments and industries, and turning them into art, was often meant to inspire pride. The photographic style of the pattern speaks to some of the WPA’s other initiatives, which used photography to document the lives of Americans.