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WPA Meets IUP : A Glimpse Into America's Artistic Past: The Art: Circus and Dance

This online exhibit presents works by 14 artists in the collection of the University Museum at IUP, and culminates the student project for the Fall 2015 ARHI 481: Special Topics in Art Museums, Art Libraries, and Visual Resources at IUP

The Art: Circus and Dance

Hanya Holm Dance Group at CSFAC by Manuel Bromberg

“Carnival” by Yasuo Kuniyoshi

Untitled (Circus Series) by Andrée Ruellan



Artist: Manuel Bromberg

Title: Hanya Holm Dance Group at CSFAC

Medium: Print, lithograph

Dimensions: H: 11x W 14 inches

Date: 1940

Location: IUP Museum Collection


Hanya Holm Dance Group is a lithograph by Manuel Bromberg completed in 1939, a year after he was selected to be part of the Federal Arts Project’s Easel Program. The same year, Bromberg exhibited at the World’s Far and worked on his Lacrosse mural for the Tahlequah, Oklahoma Post Office. During this period Bromberg completed many murals, and worked with oil paints and ink, so this piece stands out because it is a lithograph. Hanya Holm is also known as one of the legendary pioneers of American modern dance. The lithograph skews the faces and emotions of the figures, so they cannot be clearly seen. Despite that fact, the dancer in the back is shown with a lot of movement unlike the figures that surround her. The figures in white and the figure in all black seem to stand out most.

Khyle Waters


Artist: Yasuo Kuniyoshi

Title: “Carnival”

Medium: Lithograph Print

Dimensions: 16.5 x 10.5 inches

Date: 1950

Location: IUP Museum Collection

Carnival by Yasuo Kuniyoshi is a lithograph print created in 1950, which is designed in monochromatic grays and black on a tan colored paper. The subject of this piece is a figure with arms in the air. This entire piece was formed in shades of gray and a small portion of black. There are no really harsh blacks or intense contrast. Most of the tones range from a light to medium gray, and the only hint of color is the color of the paper itself. The subtle shades of gray are successful in the piece from how they were executed. The shading is constructed smoothly and distinctly enough that you can tell the foreground from the background. This way of coloring and adding dimension to the piece is surprising because many of Kuniyoshi’s works are done with rich color and noticeable contrast. The figure itself looks quite disfigured and abstract, but you can still tell from context clues that it is a circus performer. The figure seems to be quite dark and expressive. The body itself has its arms being thrown into the air, and from the face and the body together it is hard to tell if this subject is joyous or surrendering to something. It’s obvious that Kuniyoshi wanted the figure to be more abstract from his use of more geometric shapes in the face and body than realistic body parts. Kuniyoshi might have taken some inspiration for this piece from the cubism movement and maybe Picasso in particular. A lot of Pablo Picasso’s figures had geometric shapes to create the face, which is also what Kuniyoshi did in this piece. Even in the background shapes they are somewhat realistic but also resemble a little bit of cubism. A piece in particular that Carnival resembles is Picasso’s Femme Assise dans un Fauteuil (Woman Sitting in a Chair). It is one of the pieces Picasso used more extreme geometric shapes compared to organic. Another artist that this piece resembles is work by Georges Braque, who was also known for his cubist paintings. Braque would often paint realistic things in a cubism style. Braque is commonly known for his landscapes such as The Viaduct at L'Estaque (Le Viaduc de l'Estaque). Kuniyoshi depicted a figure but also the background that represents a carnival similar to Braque’s cubist landscapes. Kuniyoshi was known for his works as circus performers as subjects, and this piece can obviously fit into that category as well. One thing different about this piece is that many of his circus performers were usually women, often voluptuous and portrayed slightly sexually. Many other of Kuniyoshi’s circus performers were more on the realistic side and the piece Carnival seems to be more abstract. 

Kendalyn Sypolt



Artist: Andrée Ruellan

Title: Untitled (Circus Series)

Medium: Print, Silkscreen/Serigraph

Date: 1936

Dimensions: H 9x W 12 inches

Location: IUP Museum Collection

Artist Andrée Ruellan was interested in a variety of different artistic types, styles, and processes. She did mural painting, sketching and drawing, prints, and water color paintings. Her style changed throughout her life and she was able to adapt as an artist even at the toughest of times. She was able to easily transition between commercial and fine art and she wasn’t afraid to try out different artistic styles, which makes for a great variety in her work.

Her piece which is untitled is a part of her Circus Collection depicts a young looking red-headed woman training a few dogs. Ruellan uses bright colors in this print and takes a very stylized approach when it comes to depicting these things in their element. In fact, this print is different than any others I have seen from her. She also did lithographs, which look vastly different. Some of her work looks as though it could have been made by completely different artists. Her lithographs hold a very light and airy demeanor, much like line drawing illustrations, and paintings have changed over the years but still maintain a sense of realism. Most of her work, however, revolved a lot around regionalism.

Ruellan started her career in the art world when she was very young; her first piece entitled April, which was featured in in a magazine called The Masses, was published when she was just 8 years old. The piece was a lithograph of a young girl holding what seems to be a rake. Her lithographs are very simplistic and mostly are composed of black lines. They are extremely elegant, especially for making them at such a young age. Some called her a child prodigy. This may help to explain why she so willing to experiment with new artistic styles. Her career as an artist lasted 93 years, since she died at age 101. This gave her a lot of time working as an artist to experiment in her field.

Alexandra Salyers

Works Cited :