This large, epically scaled, WPA-era beach scene is a wonderful fine art painting that takes the forms and themes of the regionalist art movement which was revolutionizing the American art scene in 1939 when this was created, and adapts them to the classic Connecticut shore. Recalling the work of Thomas Hart Benton, and George Bellows, this oil on board shows a group of friends looking on in a mix of shock and wonder at some roughhousing co-eds. Three men appear to have a bathing beauty and appear to be about to toss her into the ocean. Is it all in good fun, or is it something more sinister? By withholding the answer, the artwork takes the beach scene and gives it the provocative modernist spin and Ashcan School grittiness that defined art in the WPA regionalist era. This is a very fine, unusual, lovely, and highly decorative painting in it’s handsome and original frame, by a prominent Connecticut painter.
The Connecticut based artist Alton Tobey began his career in the midst of the Depression and worked as an active WPA artist in the Federal Art Project, creating murals throughout Connecticut. His work can be seen in the East Hartford, CT post office, and the Hartford Library. Later in his career the artist returned to mural work, creating pieces for the Smithsonian Institute and Douglas MacArthur memorial. Other highlights of Tobey’s career include a series of profound illustrations recounting the saga of humanity from the Neolithic period to the 20th century called “The Epic of Man,” which he created on commission for “Life Magazine” where he also worked as a cover illustrator.