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John Langley Howard, American, (1902–1999)

Presidio Cavalry

Oil on canvas
24 x 30.25 in. (60.96 x 76.835 cm)
MMA Aquisition Fund Purchase with Trotter Galleries. Funds provided by the Collector's Guild in honor of the Museum's 50th anniversary.
Accession Number: 2009.002

John Langley Howard is perhaps best remembered for his socially-conscious mural work in Coit Tower in San Francisco, supported by WPA funding. The Coit Tower murals reflect the life (often the plight) of the working-class men and women of California in the 1930's. This image, then, of a nun leading her troop of children through the streets, with its cartoonish mood, seems like a distinct digression for Howard. Howard described himself as a representational poet; this scene certainly has the clarity and precision of narrative. As a composition the horizontal movement of the little group in front is balanced by the strong diagonal pull of the four nuns walking the other direction. The emptiness of the setting further focuses attention on the children.

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