140 drawings in pen-and-ink, pencil, and watercolors, ranging in size from 25 x 35 cm to 40 x 45 cm
The WPA Historic Houses Drawings Collection includes 140 images of houses, courthouses, churches, mill houses, and taverns, representing 39 Virginia counties. In the early- to mid-1930s, the Virginia State Commission on Conservation and Development’s Division of History and Archaeology received funds from the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Federal Art Project to commission five artists to create drawings for a publication on historic Virginia shrines. Like other WPA-funded projects, the artists applied for work through local emergency relief offices before being assigned to the Federal Art Project. Several of the artists also contributed to other New Deal projects at the time, including stamp designs for the National Recovery Act and illustrations for the Index of American Design, a nationwide Federal Art Project.
Under the direction of Hamilton J. Eckenrode, the commission’s Division of History and Archaeology began making a record of historic buildings in Virginia in 1932. Field assistant (and artist) Rex M. Allyn took photographs of buildings while on assignment to the Division’s Historic Highway Marker project. From 1932 to 1937, Allyn and four other artists—Edward A. Darby, Dorothea A. Farrington, E. Neville Harnsberger, and Elsie J. Mistie—each created numerous pen-and-ink and pencil drawings from the photographs. In some cases, the artists were asked to make adjustments to the architectural details to … more
18 pen-and-ink drawings, ranging in size from 5-1/8 x 6-5/8 inches to 14-5/8 x 7-3/8 inches
This collection of original illustrations and chapter head- and end-pieces was created by Edward A. Darby for Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion. Compiled by workers of the Work Projects Administration’s state-sponsored Virginia Writers’ Project (1940), the book was initiated as one in a series of state guides begun in 1935 under the Federal Writers Project and was designed to give work to writers, editors, historians, and researchers.
All thirteen of the drawings used in Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion can be found in this collection of lighthearted, optimistic, and idealized images. The detailed artwork depicts iconic landmarks, historic sites, and symbols of the early-20th-century countryside that would be recognizable to many Virginians today. Also included in the collection are five additional drawings that do not appear in the guide. They represent an imagined Virginia, where tidewater monuments stand at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and where oxcarts and buggies share the landscape with speeding trains, automobiles, and airplanes.
Arrangement and access:
The collection is arranged in a single series, corresponding to the order in which the illustrations appear in Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion, followed by the five remaining drawings.
Mixed materials—including vintage prints, color snapshots, oil studies, finished drawings, process drawings, ink-jet printouts, flyers, and posters—ranging in size from 2 x 3 to 26 x 36 inches
Richmond-based painter J. Bohannan was born in New York City in 1950 and moved with his family at age two to Hilton Village, Newport News, and later, as a teenager, to Hopewell. After studying art at the Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bohannan worked as a salesman in his father’s art supply store, selling his own original artwork on the side. By his own admission, his paintings of the time were derivative of the European high art and contemporary abstraction he had studied at RPI. Then one day he picked up a copy of Matthew Baigell’s The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930s (1974) from a discount book bin. Until then, Bohannan says, he had never really seen, much less studied, modern American painting, despite four years of formal art education.
Working alongside street artists in Verona and Munich, copying famous Caravaggios and Bouchers in pastel on public sidewalks, Bohannan developed a passion for “plastic realism,” embedding human forms in visual space in a way that is, as Bohannan puts it, “more there than right”—that is, more materially present than technically correct. After his return to Virginia from Europe, Bohannan began developing … more