2: Lithograph, Harry Sternberg’s "Miner and his wife," 1936.
Harry Sternberg (1904-2001) was a painter, muralist, and printmaker and a second generation immigrant, the youngest of eight children in an Orthodox Jewish family. In his artwork he depicted proletarian subjects in a way that aligned with his anti-fascist political activism and beliefs. His early work had a clear political message in favor of the working class. In Miner and his wife, Sternberg draws upon his first-hand experience visiting the coal mining region of Pennsylvania. As a result of those visits, Sternberg produced images of the poverty and danger in miners’ lives and the need for reform. Teachers may wish to consult Baigell’s Social Concern and Left Politics in Jewish American Art 1880-1940 (2015) p. 150, for a further discussion of this piece.
Suggested Activity: Have your students look at the lithograph and discuss the following questions: Why would miners and their families be of special interest to social realist artists? Sternberg grew up in an Orthodox environment and later claimed that his art and life were deeply influenced by his East European Jewish immigrant background and milieu. Do you see traces of Sternberg’s background in this painting? Do people have sympathy for miners today? Can you think of any contemporary artistic representations of miners? How might this black and white lithograph affect viewers differently than a color painting or a photograph would?
Source: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. Harry Sternberg, "Miner and his wife" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed June 14, 2017. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/91556622-ecb7-b4f8-e040-e00a180...