Old Aquarium

Mabel Dwight American
Published by WPA

Not on view

In 1935, when she was sixty years old, Dwight joined the Federal Art Project, an initiative under President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal that employed out-of-work artists during the Great Depression. She created Old Aquarium and several other lithographs under the auspices of the Graphic Arts Division of the Federal Art Project in New York. Because she suffered from chronic asthma, project administrators delivered heavy lithographic limestones to her fourth-floor walk-up in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan so that she could work from home.

The New York Aquarium was located at Castle Garden in Battery Park—formerly an immigration center—from 1896 until 1957, when it moved to Coney Island. With characteristic wit, Dwight lamented its recent renovations: "one day they dolled up the old Aquarium; its dingy red turned battleship grey and its shape was tampered with. I resented this with a barnacle’s resentment, but I was glad that I had a careful pencil drawing of my friend before the shave and haircut were administered...From the days when P. T. Barnum caught very big fish in his net: Swedish song birds, prehistoric giants and strange animals, to the present, when popeyed fish swim around in circles and stare at the public, this old building has been a place of more or less fabulous interest."

Old Aquarium, Mabel Dwight (American, Cincinnati, Ohio 1876–1955 Sellersville, Pennsylvania), Lithograph

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