George Biddle: The Art of American Social Conscience

09/24/2022
01/22/2023

George Biddle (1885–1973) was a leading American artist whose work engaged with the human condition, in particular the social injustices he encountered in his journeys across the United States and abroad. He served in World War I, was an artist correspondent for Life magazine in World War II, attended the Nuremberg trials, and participated in various federal committees that shaped the politics of twentieth-century American art. Through his long-standing friendship with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he helped form the mural project of the Works Project Administration. Biddle himself created murals for the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington, DC, and, as part of an official effort to promote Pan-American progress and cooperation, for the National Library in Rio de Janeiro and the Supreme Court in Mexico City.

This exhibition includes some seventy works that explore Biddle’s creative engagement with a full spectrum of social change during his lifetime: the cultural resonances of both World Wars, the Russian Revolution, the executions of anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and white supremacy. Biddle was ahead of his time in addressing issues of race, exploitation, and social class, and a lifelong advocate of the arts as a healing force for a turbulent planet. A prolific author, he argued with figures such as Alfred Barr of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, who championed an understanding of modernism in the arts as divorced from socially committed subjects. The exhibition will also showcase important works by Biddle that are a recent gift from his family to Woodmere.