The name Federal Project Number One may have been an uninspiring one, but throughout the 1930s this project - established as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programme to help Americans out of The Great Depression - became an important patron of the arts.
Alongside creating employment for people in the creative industries, it also had the responsibility of giving fine art mass appeal by integrating it into everyday life. It is not then surprising that one of its most important activities became the production of posters to promote other government sponsored works and initiatives.
One important illustrator affiliated with The New York poster division was Vera Bock (1905-1973). Headed by the internationally renowned German industrial designer Richard Floethe, who gave his artists the freedom to experiment with bold colours and different styles, it was the perfect environment for Vera to flourish. There she produced numerous silkscreen posters, noted for their distinctive Germanic influenced wood-block designs that also drew on her previous experience as an illustrator of children’s books. The quality of the posters produced by artists, such as Vera, was so high that it led Floethe to reflect that the "government unwittingly launched a movement to improve the commercial poster and raise it to a true art form."
As well as continuing to illustrate children’s books, in the 1940s Vera went on to produce illustrations for Life and Coronet magazines. Her work has been included as part of two exhibitions at nypl and many of her drawings for children’s books are housed in the Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature at the University of Minnesota.
The book in the photographs, illustrated by Vera Bock, is Arabian Nights, collected and edited by Andrew Lang, and published by Franklin Watts, inc. in 1946.
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