George Biddle: The Art of American Social Conscience
About the Exhibition
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. Once a schoolmate of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Biddle 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 was 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 recent gifts from his family to Woodmere.
Woodmere extends sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, the Robert Lehman Foundation, Robert Kohler, the Edna W. Andrade Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation, Jamie and Kristin Biddle, Albert B. Murphy III and Heather Murphy, and Anonymous for their generous support of the exhibition and catalogue.
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