Happy Holidays from THV!

Skating on Rondout Creek (1935-43) Harry Gottlieb. Lithograph, image: 11 x 14 3/4 in., sheet: 13 3/4 x 17 3/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, Gift of the Work Projects Administration, NY, 1943 (43.33.1147)

About Harry Gottlieb

Harry Gottlieb was born in Romania in 1895. His family immigrated to Minneapolis in the early 1900s. As a young man he attended the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Gottlieb moved to New York in 1918. He and his wife, the Russian born artist and sculptor Eugenie Gershoy, settled in Woodstock’s art colony in 1923 where he worked for 12 years, becoming one of America’s first Social Realist painters.

Gottlieb worked with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) from 1935 to 1940, became active with the Artists Union, the Artists Congress, and the Communist Party. In the graphics division of the WPA’s Federal Art Project (FAP), he participated in an effort to make silk-screen printing a fine-art medium. The prints he made by this process in the 1930’s and 40’s are among his best-known works.

In 1977, Gottlieb helped organize a show of WPA artists at Parsons School of Design and in 1983 his own contributions to the WPA were exhibited at Rutgers University. Gottlieb’s work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Whitney, and the Smithsonian. Harry Gottlieb died in 1992. (Sources: NYT obituary and Wikipedia, accessed December 20, 2016)

Filling the Ice House (1934) Harry Gottlieb. Oil on canvas, 40 3/8 x 60 3/8 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.19

From the  New Deal for Artists (1934) exhibition label

“As workers like these knew well, it was cold, hard work filling the icehouses of upstate New York. In January 1934, artist Harry Gottlieb signed on with the PWAP* and looked for American workers he could paint near his home in the artists’ colony of Woodstock, New York. He found these men harvesting ice off lakes and streams as local men had done every winter since the early 1800s.

“They sawed the thick layer of natural ice into long strips and then cut off large blocks. As Gottlieb’s painting shows, the red-faced workers dressed in warm coats used long hooks and wooden ramps to maneuver the slick, heavy ice into large commercial icehouses where they neatly stacked the blocks. Straw or sawdust packing minimized melting in warm weather. Throughout the year icehouses along the Hudson River stored ice that was shipped by train to New York City.

“Families and grocers put the ice into insulated iceboxes that kept food from spoiling. Artificial freezing dominated ice production after World War I, and then electric refrigerators became popular. When Gottlieb documented the natural ice business it was gradually melting away.” (* PWAP is Public Works of Art Project, another New Deal program.) 

Learn more

Hudson Valley Visual Arts Consortium work by Gottlieb and Gershoy.

Online Exhibit: Art of the New Deal, featuring selections from the collections of the FDR Library.

Gottlieb’s work in the Smithsonian’s collection.

The Ice Horse by Thomas Locker and Candace Christiansen (1993, Dial, 32 pp, recommended for ages 6-10). This beautifully illustrated book tells an earlier story about harvesting ice from the Hudson and is used in two lessons about the ice industry found in THV’s collection:

Our Hudson River Valley: Trip to Cohotate Preserve by Ellen Carr, Orlinda Carafellow, Kathy Durkin, and Liz LoGiudice for grade 2.

Exploring our Past, Connecting our Future, Preserving our Place by Kathy Durkin and Liz LoGiudice for grade 3.

Ice Harvesting on the Hudson River, created by Jill Leinung and Linda Kaminski for grade 4.

Windswept Summits to Cool Ice Caves: Habitats of Sam’s Point, two lessons by Cara Lee, Heidi Wagner, Emma Sears,  and Sue Brosnahan for grade 7.