George Biddle, Starvation

Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Gift of the Michael Biddle Family, 2023
60 x 50 in.

In this work, Biddle addresses the devastation caused by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Severe drought coupled with massive dust storms swept from Texas to Colorado, destroying some one hundred million acres of farmland and making hundreds of thousands of Americans destitute. Poverty-stricken families migrated en masse to California, only to find equally bleak conditions owing to the Great Depression.

The painting depicts a mother and her children kneeling before a grave filled with three figures, but Biddle wanted viewers to ponder its allegorical meaning. The mother represents the nation itself, brought to its knees in mourning. The emaciated children, naked and in rags, remind us of the twin figures of Charles Dickens’s Ignorance and Want. The dead bodies represent our tragic, shared future.


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