Washington Square South
7 x 8 3/4 in. (17.8 x 22.2 cm)
(New York, NY, 1903 - 1964, Cranford, NJ)
Medium and Support:
Gift of Robert W. Brown
Location: Not currently on view
Out of necessity and solidarity artists banded together to survive the Great Depression by collective efforts to make, show, and sell their work. Hugh Botts’ keen sense of humor and ability to market his work is clear in Washington Square Park South. This display of eight of his prints tacked to a fence mimics how he probably displayed his work to sell at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit (established in 1931). This outdoor, public exhibition of art for sale, similar to the Memorial Art Gallery’s own annual Clothesline Arts Festival, is still in operation today in New York City.
The prints depicted were among Bott’s most successful images; Columbus Circle was reprinted in the 1939 WPA guide to New York, Roosevelt Wing Museum was the feature of an article about the artist in Christian Science Monitor, and House Painter was a prizewinning print noted by the New York Times reviewer as characteristic of the artist’s wit.
Since 1931, artists have shown their works in an annual exhibition in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square. Launched during the Depression by Jackson Pollock, Alice Neel, and other artists seeking to have their work seen and purchased, the show became a popular (and inexpensive) way of gaining recognition.
In this etching, Hugh Botts shows his own works on view in Washington Square. In characteristic fashion, the artist includes his whimsical touches – for example, a trompe l’oeil label with his name and date on it. Look closely, and you’ll find a miniature version of an etching in this exhibition.
[Label text, 2003]