Sam Thal (American, 1903—1964)

created circa 1940
Oil on panel, 19" x 25"
A Gift of the Stuart and Barbara Padnos Foundation
Physical rights are retained by Grand Valley State University. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. Copyright laws.
Additional details and current location information

About The Artwork

Trap/Net evokes a New England seaside town, no doubt the type that Sam Thal would have witnessed on day trips from his adopted city of Boston. This humble, sun-soaked village scene features a few modest homes, a small dock with boats, and a winding dirt road. At the exact center of the composition three men repair a wavy pinkish-brown net. Its curving lines draw the eye and contrasts with the rectilinear quality of most other elements in the scene.

Thal’s realistic focus on laborers conformed to the style and subject choices made by many artists employed by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). One of the most famous of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, the WPA employed more than 8.5 million Americans. WPA artists like Thal were hired to create paintings, sculpture, photographs and prints intended to beautify public spaces and appeal to the masses. As a result, many images created under the Federal Art Project depicted workers and their everyday lives. While Trap/Net postdates the Federal Art Project, it nonetheless captures the socially engaged essence of WPA art.


Assistant Professor, Frederik Meijer Honors College, Grand Valley State University



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