Category: Art

Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel book



Images from ebay auction: .

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel was first published in 1939. The author and illustrator spent her early years in southern California. Learn about Burton at .



Olinka Hrdy mural in Long Beach



Image: detail of Deep Sea Magic mural by Olinka Hrdy from .

“This mural ‘Deep Sea Magic’ by Oklahoma artist Olinka Hrdy was painted in 1939 with funding from the WPA Federal Art Project. It is composed of two panels, each measuring 6 feet by 19 feet, and is currently located in the foyer of Will Rogers Middle School. Hrdy had the following to say about the mural in 1965:

Well like most of the artists in California I got on the Federal Art Project and naturally I had quite a few decorations behind me so they put me right to work designing murals. And the first mural I did was one called Deep Sea Magic which I did for the Lowell [sic] Junior High School in Long Beach… [T]his giant squid, the tendrils were all of ten feet long, all in purple pink and blues, various colors and this was almost transparent so you could look through it. And look here, all the eyes of all the fish were done with either gold or silver so that when you walk by the mural you see the glitter of these eyes all watching you. (”

Excerpt from image link above.

Learn more about Hrdy at .


Ben Messick, artist


Watercolor sketch for a later oil painting: Main Street Cafe Society, 1939.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art description (from the link below):

A man shares a newspaper with a faceless woman while an elderly gentleman hungrily slurps his soup in a sparsely furnished restaurant. Main Street Cafe Society is painted in a palette of earth tones. Color was essential to Messick for conveying the mood of his scenes, and he usually selected a restricted color scheme for each painting. While the browns and beiges of this painting bespeak a poor and spare life, the overall pink cast of the palette suggests a positive, almost rosy attitude toward it. Messick also believed a good composition should move rhythmically, and in Main Street Cafe Society the viewer proceeds through the scene by means of fluid lines and alternating areas of light and dark.

“Ben Messick (1901-1981) Born: Strafford, MO; Studied: Chouinard Art Institute (Los Angeles); Member: California Art Club… By the mid-1930s, he had developed his own style of painting and became known as one of the West Coast’s key Regionalist artists. While Messick was an extremely competent watercolorist, these works were not exhibited frequently and did not receive the attention given to his oils on canvas.”

Image and excerpts from .

Guardian of Water


Image: statue located in front of the San Diego County Administration Center from .

“‘The “Guardian of Water’ is a granite sculpture, with a mosaic and frieze around the base. It was created by Donal Hord in 1939, with support from the WPA.

“The sculpture is a 23′ high figure of a woman holding an olla on her left shoulder, symbolizing the need for water conservation in southern California. She is surrounding by a mosaic of kneeling nudes- symbolizing clouds- pouring water from jars over a dam into a citrus-fruit orchard.”

Excerpt from .

California modernism art


Image: The Parting by Hans Burkhardt from
Other Burkhardt art and a bio at the link.

“In 1939, Hans Burkhardt held his first one-man show at the Stendhal Gallery in Los Angeles, set up by the artist Lorser Feitelson. After his move out West, Burkhardt never returned permanently to New York and would no longer be recognized by the East Coast.”
Excerpt from .


On the Edge of America: California Modernist Art, 1900-1950, a 1996 exhibit in West Hollywood and an accompanying book.

“Two works that are showcased in both the show and the book are Hans Burkhardt’s The Parting (1939) and War, Agony in Death (1939-40). These two anti-war paintings are for Burkhardt what Guernica was for Picasso. They are overwhelming works that display an uncanny prescience of World War II’s impact as well as a full panoply of modernist, painterly techniques. Wisely, they are hung side-by-side so that they form a heart-wrenching narrative. In The Parting a father figure bids adieu to his grief torn family, whose world is being turned upside-down. Loss and nostalgic yearning pervade the image. In War, Agony and Death the father figure has been transformed into a monstrous blood-drenched machine of death that faces a strife-torn landscape of countless crosses. In the upper left corner the same family group of The Parting appears, overlooking the universal devastation.”

Excerpt from .