During the 1930s, Maynard Dixon turned his attention to the economic, social, and political upheavals of the Great Depression. Although he was a well-known painter of America’s Southwestern landscape and native peoples, he began to create images of his downtrodden and despairing countrymen, including those near his San Francisco studio. These paintings are among the most powerful images of this turbulent period in American history.
Along with the Forgotten Man, two other works are featured, Free Speech and Keep Moving.
Forgotten Man: Maynard Dixon 1934, Oil on Canvas
Dixon’s haunting portrayal of a dejected man sitting on a street curb captures an era when one-fourth of the nations work force was unemployed. With hunched shoulders, limp hands, and downcast gaze, he seems hopeless and alone. The pathos of the scene is enhanced by the painting’s muted tones as well as its cropped composition, which shows only the legs and feet of the heedless passersby.
Free Speech: Maynard Dixon 1934-36, Oil on Canvas
This scene of labor rally is part of a series of paintings focusing on the violent 1934 strikes of sailors and longshoremen centered in San Francisco. Above the crowd of workers, a lone speaker stands with his right arm extended in a thumbs-up sign while policemen stand menacingly around. This dynamic composition was an assertion of Dixon’s belief in freedom of expression and the right to assemble.
Keep Moving: Maynard Dixon 1934, Oil on Canvas
Two lines of stirking workers march along the sidewalk in opposite directions in this scene from the 1934 labor troubles in San Francisco. Their faces are turned away or in shadow to represent all oppressed workingmen. Several of them cast their gaze toward the threatening clusters of policemen across the street.