Maynard Dixon (1875-1946)
Maynard Dixon was greatly affected by the Depression. Moved by the poor working conditions he saw at the Boulder Dam construction site, the maritime strike in San Francisco , and the realist photography of his wife, Dorothea Lange, Dixon turned his attention "from an exclusively Western point of view to a broader American outlook." As Dixon said, "The depression woke me up to the fact that I had a part in all this, as an artist" (Hagerty, 1998, p. 206).

Forgotten Man
1934, oil on canvas, 40x50 in.
During the thirties Dixon produced his compelling "Forgotten Man" and "Strike" series, both of which capture the hopelessness and insecurity of the Depression. By means of shadowed, nondescript figures and titles such as Destination Nowhere, Dixon presents scenes general enough that many can relate to them.


Destination Nowhere, 1941
Medium: Oil
Size: 36 x 40 Collection of Brigham Young University.

Forgotten Man shows a lonely transient sitting on the curb of a busy street in some unidentified city. The pathos of the scene is enhanced by the painting's muted tones as well as its cropped composition, which allows us to see only the legs and shoes of the heedless passersby. Not only are the faces of the crowd unseen, but the visage of the forgotten man is downcast and lost in shadow. The viewer is given a front-row seat to the scene at hand, sharing a proximity to the figure without peripheral distractions.

Dixon's social realism paintings, such as Forgotten Man, have been stylistically and thematically linked to the works of American realist painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967). Although Forgotten Man does share Hopper's use of strong value contrasts, the sculptural quality of his figures, and his obsession with human isolation, Dixon's work never seems to reach the eerie psychological depths of his well-known contemporary. The flatness of the picture plane creates an almost poster-like quality that, along with its heavy-handed message and proletariat sympathy, aligns the "Forgotten Man" series stylistically more with Russian social realism of the 1920s. Dixon's deep sense of humanity permeates his aesthetics. "Painting, as I see it, must be human rather than arty," he said. "It is my testimony in regard to life…" (Hagerty, p. 206).