Julia Eckel: Radio Broadcast, 1934

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    Radio Broadcast, 1934
    Julia Eckel, Born: Washington, DC 1909 Died: Washington DC 1988
    oil on canvas 40 1/8 x 55 5/8 in. (102.0 x 141.2 cm.)
    Smithsonian American Art Museum
    Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor 1964.1.66

    Gathering around microphones as in Julia Eckel’s painting, actors and musicians of the 1930s created drama, comedy, and musical performances enjoyed by radio audiences across the country. During the Great Depression Will Rogers’s humor, Bing Crosby’s crooning, Graham McNamee’s news coverage, and series like “Fibber McGee and Molly,” were part of the American scene. President Franklin Roosevelt explained his decisions to the nation through his famous radio broadcast “fireside chats.”

    Artist Julia Eckel used tightly spaced figures and controlled gestures to illustrate the close cooperation among star actors, secondary players, and musicians performing live on the air. The painting shows musicians playing during an interlude in the action as the leading lady, dressed in red and green, stands poised to speak her next line. Viewers of the painting, like radio listeners, feel the tension as they wait for the action to resume. Eckel kept her visual drama taut by leaving out such distracting practical details as the scripts and sheet music, which are prominent in publicity photographs of radio performances.


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