- Gallery Text
As a newly minted Harvard graduate, Lewis Rubenstein painted this social realist mural with his mentor Rico Lebrun on the fourth floor of the Fogg Art Museum, which had opened its new building on this site in 1927. The fresco’s composition is structured as a montage of scenes seemingly pulled from newsreels and newspapers. They depict black and white unemployed workers and World War I veterans agitating together for federal relief and protesting the government’s denial of promised bonuses for wartime service, as police and the military respond with violence.
Rubenstein had recently returned from Italy, where he studied Renaissance fresco techniques with Lebrun. Joining a hunger march on Washington in the winter of 1932, he experienced deprivation and witnessed the kind of police actions depicted here. In preparation for the mural, the two artists made large-scale figure studies, taking material from Rubenstein’s sketchbook and hiring unemployed men as models. On the strength of the Hunger March fresco, in 1935 Charles Kuhn, curator of Harvard’s Germanic Museum (now the Busch-Reisinger), commissioned Rubenstein to paint a mural cycle at that museum’s first home, in Adolphus Busch Hall, a short walk from here.
The recent renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums necessitated the removal of Hunger March. The section of masonry wall to which the fresco adheres, along with connecting structural elements, was hoisted out of the building. Relocated to its new position in this gallery, the painting is set at its original height from the floor. Evidence that it was formerly positioned under a much lower ceiling is visible where the top of the mural meets a steel I-beam that supported the museum’s roof.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
Lewis W. Rubenstein, American (Buffalo, NY 1908 - 2003 Shelburne, VT)
Rico Lebrun, American (Naples, Italy 1900 - 1964 Malibu, CA)
- The Hunger March
- Work Type
- mural painting
- Creation Place: North America, United States, Massachusetts, Cambridge
Level 1, Room 1320, Modern and Contemporary Art, Social Realism
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- Physical Descriptions
- True Fresco
- Fresco painting
- Lewis W. Rubenstein, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1933.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Lewis W. Rubenstein
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- Modern and Contemporary Art
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- Publication History
Louise Orsini, "The Technical Analysis and Treatment of Hunger March by Lewis Rubenstein and Rico Lebrun" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2010), Unpublished, pp. 1-59 passim
After 6 years, Harvard Art Museums reemerging, auct. cat. (Boston, MA, April 13, 2014)
Colleen Walsh, Art for viewers’ sake: Long-hidden mural will be front and center in revamped Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Gazette, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, April 16, 2014)
- Exhibition History
32Q: 1320 Social Realism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014
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