Did the W.P.A. Program make a difference in the lives of artists?
“The Project was terribly important. It gave us enough to live on and we could paint what we wanted. It was terrific largely because of its director, Burgoyne Diller. I had to resign after a year because I was an alien, but even in that short time, I changed my attitude toward being an artist. Instead of doing odd jobs and painting on the side, I painted and did odd jobs on the side. My life was the same, but I had a different view of it. I gave up the idea of first making a fortune and then painting in my old age.”
Due to the fact that Willem de Kooning wasn’t born in America, he was unable to continue receiving a government stipend but the W.P.A. convinced him to become a full-time artist.
A Willem de Kooning original, you will recall, sold in 2006 for one hundred and thirty-seven million dollars. Sort of makes you wish we had kept him working a little longer at $42 a week, doesn’t it?
IndyPS – The image at the top of the page is Willem de Kooning during the time you and me employed him for just $42 a week. Born in the Netherlands in 1904, de Kooning took night classes at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques while working a full-time job. In 1926, de Kooning arrived in America as a stowaway. He found work as a house painter in Hoboken, New Jersey, before moving to New York City. His painting skill gained him work with the Federal Arts Project in 1935. He died in 1997.