Eight Figures, 1935
oil on masonite
30 x 48 in. (76 x 122 cm)
The Henry Melville Fuller Acquisition Fund
All art was once contemporary. As a curator specializing in the art of our time, I often apply this lens while looking at the art of the past. Many artworks remain relevant to later generations, perhaps a commentary on the cyclical nature of history. Let us consider, for example, this social realist work by Lew Davis, created during the period of the Great Depression. In the near century since this work was painted, global industries have shifted, and technologies have advanced. What has changed in terms of working conditions, and more importantly what hasn’t changed? Think about what this scene would look like if the artist were to paint it today. Do you have something in mind? What do these workers look like? And the supervisor? And what about their environment? What might your answers have to say about the state of the working class today?