In the 1930s, the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP, People’s Print Workshop) in Mexico City and the Associated American Artists (AAA) in New York City produced high quality art at low prices. Whereas fine art prints in limited editions might sell for anywhere between ten and fifty dollars, prints at this time could be purchased for as little as five dollars (a frame would cost two dollars extra). Cheap to produce, lithographs enabled well-known American artists like Thomas Hart Benton to survive during the Great Depression, while Mexican artists affiliated with the TGP also used revenue from print sales to offer affordable printmaking workshops. At the same time, some artists adopted drawing and watercolor painting on paper, which could be executed more quickly and less expensively than oil paintings on canvas. Unlike the multiple copies produced in printmaking, these were singular originals, yet still much more affordable than oil paintings.
Header: Lawrence Beall Smith, Frolic (detail), 1948. Lithograph. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Judith Regnier and Stanley Getch.
Left: Gustave Baumann, Taos Placita, 1947. Woodcut. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David Anderson.
In this space, we see portrayals of iconic figures and faces, portraits of children and their adults, people hard at work, and friends enjoying time together. The popular demand for prints prompted artists to create diverse images of daily life. Genre scenes, or scenes of daily activities, give us glimpses into the joys and struggles people experienced in the early 20th century. Some artists were inspired by the devastating economic conditions of the 1930s, expressed powerful political messages, and were motivated by a strong sense of social justice.
Prints and People is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. It is made possible through the generosity of donors to the Museum’s annual fund.
José Luis Cuevas, Retrato del Critico Jose Gomez Sicre (Portrait of the Critic Jose Gomez Sicre), 1973. Watercolor and ink. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Mexican Art.
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