NPR takes us through the government’s efforts to recover lost works of art made for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project that involved as many as 10,000 artists. Over time, the art was lost or given away as in this story:
Take, for instance, the seascape Gulls at Monhegan, painted by Maine artist Andrew Winter. “It hung in the [American] embassy in Costa Rica for years,” Miller says. “And the ambassador loved it so much that when he left, his staff gave it to him as kind of an unofficial gift. And so it remained in his family and then his granddaughter eventually tried to sell it up in Portland, Maine.”
John Sloan’s New York City street scene, Fourteenth Street at Sixth Avenue, was also recovered by the GSA. It had hung in a U.S. senator’s office and apparently went home with a staffer after that senator’s death.
“It’s a busy street and there’s I guess an [elevated train] that goes over top, and a bustling street with people walking and cars parked and people in all sorts of dress,” Miller says. “And this really captures life in New York City”
The painting — appraised at $750,000 — was recovered in 2003 and is now on loan to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Other pieces have been found at yard sales, antique malls and on eBay. Many are identifiable by tags that say “Federal Arts Program” or “Treasury Department Art Project.”