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Mural Study for Children’s Hospital

The work of Peter Busa, a member of the Abstract Expressionist circle, is characterized by vibrant colors, bold compositions, and richly varied brushwork and surface textures. This painting also reflects the Surrealist technique of “automatic drawing, ” in which the artist allows the unconscious to guide his or her hand.

During the Depression, Busa was employed by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). This painting is a study for a WPA mural he was commissioned to paint for a children’s hospital in New York City. The process by which WPA murals were approved was long and complex. Artists submitted several studies for approval, beginning with a simple sketch and progressing to a full-scale color detail. Unfortunately for Busa, the hospital’s doctors ultimately rejected his proposed mural, fearing that its abstracted imagery of playing children would be disturbing to their young patients. Although he never painted the mural, Busa considered this dynamic study a finished painting in its own right.

Peter Busa
American, 1914–1985
Mural Study for Children’s Hospital
ca. 1940
Oil on canvas
24 ½ x 83 ¾ in. (62.2 x 212.7 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Museum purchase with funds from the Clarence W. and Mildred Long Art Purchase Fund, 2015.133

Large image not available.