The title of this work, One Third of a Nation (1939) references President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 inaugural address in which he proclaimed, “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” One Third of a Nation is also the title of Arthur Arent’s 1938 play, which emphasized the plight of the poor and was funded by the WPA’s Federal Theater Project. In this painting, O. Louis Guglielmi (1906 – 1956) draws attention to the horrid living conditions during the Great Depression. The forms in the foreground resemble coffins, and subsequently suggest a similar reading of the brick tenements behind them. The floral wreath adorning the building’s cornice reinforces this metaphor.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.