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For the People:  Nebraska's New Deal Art


These two artists documented the American Scene by painting portraits of contemporary Nebraskans as well as figures of historical significance.

Child of Seven, English-Colonial Ancestry

William C. Gilbert, Omaha
Pastel on paper
22 x 14 matted


William C. Gilbert, Omaha
Pastel on paper
22 x 14 matted

Irish American Professional Business Woman

William C. Gilbert
Pastel on paper
22 x 14 framed

Very little is known about the artist William C. Gilbert. Most of what we know comes from this note he attached to the back of one of his paintings. In the note he refers to a group of portraits to which these three paintings belong. The NSHS collection only contains portraits from this group and it is unknown if different subject matter was also included.

"This picture is one of a group recording the life of a Nebraska community; its sorrows, its joys, seeming injustices and future hopes. They are all done from life and in some cases with little understanding or knowledge of the artist's needs. Most of them were done in a morning or an afternoon or parts of both of them which limited the artist in execution and in quality of product. What he had to say was more important than the way he said it. Finding the breath of life in each of them and expressing that in terms of beauty, truth, color or rhythm to tell the story is all that the artist hoped for. Perhaps some day he will be able to combine all of these qualities and select subjects from all quarters of these United State of America."
Artist's Note from William Gilbert


Peta Le Sha Ro

Louise Ennis, Omaha
Oil on canvas
30.5 x 36.5 framed


Chief Gall

Louise Ennis, Omaha
Oil on canvas
33.5 x 27.5 framed

Louise Ennis was born in Colorado in 1909 and came to Nebraska in 1919. She trained at Broadmoor Art Academy under Augustus Dunbier and was active as a painter and photo colorist during the 1930s. Her Indian portraits were copied from early photographs obtained from the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Virtual Exhibits


  Work - or Lack Thereof

  Illustrating Hope

  Nebraska Environment


  Industry / Progress





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All artwork in this exhibit is Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration Commissioned through the New Deal art projects.
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Last updated 27 April 2011

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