November 12, 2017
Mahonri M. Young (1877-1957), The Promised Land, 1930, oil on canvas, 49 x 55 1/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
On November 12, 1954, Ellis Island was closed as an immigration station to the United States. Between 1892 and 1954, millions of people immigrated to America through New York Harbor, hoping to find their land of promise. While many did find safe haven and new opportunities, this unfinished painting by Mahonri Young highlights the struggles that many immigrants faced in their new home.
Young portrays four down-and-out men seated in New York’s Central Park. The dark clothing and full beards of most of the men suggest their immigrant status, as does the ironic title of the work. The postures of the men—shoulders shrugged, eyes downcast, and listless amid the bustling city—underscores the difficulties immigrants encountered in seeking employment in an often-saturated workforce and assimilating into congested urban quarters. Young painted this scene in 1930, the year after the 1929 stock market crash that spawned widespread unemployment and compounded the economic hardships many faced throughout the country.
This painting is currently on display at the MOA in the exhibition Shaping America.