Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Roosevelt Was Hated, Too

With all of our political divisions, it's easy to think the past was much better. FDR, for instance — he was universally beloved by the people, if not the Republican leadership, right?

Not so much, according to a newspaper article my sister had hiding in an old book we found recently in her basement:

The image is a mural, painted in 1934. This is what the accompanying story from the New York American says:

This savage mural, bitterly satirizing President Roosevelt, his family and the New Deal, created an uproar when hung at the Westchester Institute of Fine Arts in Tarrytown. The President, top center, is shown with a fishing pole in one hand, the other entangled in microphones. Mrs. Roosevelt, beside him, drops a mass of papers, and on the table two dolls drop dolls of opposite sex into a waste basket — presumably symbolic of the two divorces in the Roosevelt familiy.

Top left, is a crucified Uncle Sam, and top right William Green, of the A.F. of L., balances Secretary of Labor Perkins. Flanking the President are gargoyles, supposedly "braintrusters," dropping funds into the public trough where the silk-hatted pigs are feeding.

Across the bottom, starting at the left, you see Secretary of Agriculture Wallace strangling Ceres, Goddess of Agriculture; a tax collector stripping Mr. Citizen of his last shirt, and Secretary Morgenthau juggling money, while hands from below reach up in supplication for aid. A down-trodden mailman supports Postmaster General Farley, who scatters mail and post office contracts to the four winds, and the fiery General Johnson is in action at the right.

The artist left the [Bald?] Eagle out of the picture, using a vulture instead. If you look closely, right center, you'll see a reformer chasing the [unreadable] out of the movies. The artist calls his picture "The Nightmare of 1934." He has signed it "Jere-Miah." Through a friend he informed reporters, "I don't dare let my name be known."
When the writer says the AFL's William Green "balances" Frances Perkins, what he means is Green is shown balancing her on his shoulder like a ventriloquist's dummy. There are several other parts of the painting that are not mentioned, perhaps because they were too extreme for a family publication: between FDR and the crucified Uncle Sam, there appear to be death-headed figures with their hands in chains, and he doesn't mention that the goddess Ceres is partially nude, arrayed like an odalisque, as Wallace chokes her.

The painter was clearly of minimal talent, and the reproduction is both black and white and on newsprint, so it's a bit hard to discern. But wow.

No comments: