Belle Baranceanu: Life, Art, and the New Deal Renaissance

Jennifer Hernandez

Belle Baranceanu: Life, Art, and the New Deal Renaissance
Lexington Books
United States
15 November 2022

Belle Baranceanu: Life, Art, and the New Deal Renaissance

Jennifer Hernandez

In this first biography of artist Belle Goldschlager Baranceanu, Jennifer Hernandez tells the extraordinary story of a woman who rose from humble beginnings to become the most important female muralist in San Diego during the Great Depression and a prominent modern California Modern artist. Baranceanu’s art and worldview were influenced by her Jewish Romanian immigrant family background and hardscrabble childhood in the Great Plains. Her meteoric rise in the art world began in Chicago in the 1920s but the onset of the Great Depression nearly ended her career. However, destitution qualified Baranceanu for work relief, and she was soon hired to produce art for all the New Deal federal government art projects beginning in 1934. Drawing from previously unpublished letters and archival records, Hernandez skillfully weaves Baranceanu’s resilient story into the larger history of the Depression and New Deal in Chicago and San Diego and highlights the success of the government’s work relief programs. For Baranceanu and others fortunate enough to work for the New Deal art projects, the Depression turned out to be a golden age in American art history with a level of government patronage that has been unmatched ever since.

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