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Fine Prints by Federal Art Project Artists in the Library of Congress

This guide summarizes the Prints & Photographs Division’s prints by artists of the Federal Art Project, Graphic Art Division, 1935-1943–part of the Work Projects Administration. Includes information about accessing the prints and related resources.


Color woodcut showing buildings, a boat, and a body of water with small boats in the background
Blance Lazzell, artist. My wharf studio. 1937. Fine Prints. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The Prints and Photographs Division fine prints collection includes more than 230 prints produced by the Graphic Art Division of the Federal Art Project.

According to the National Archives description for Record Group 69 (Records of the Work Projects Administration),

The Federal Art Project was started in August and September, 1935, as part of the WPA sponsored Federal Project Number 1. Its main purpose was to provide employment for artists on the relief rolls. The national director was Holger Cahill. FAP operated through regional, state and district offices, in all states at some time, including separate projects for New York City and Northern and Southern California. After June 30, 1939, when FAP was abolished, the arts programs continued as state projects.1

The Graphic Arts Section reportedly employed more than 200 printmakers and produced upwards of 240,000 prints from more than 11,000 designs. While quality undoubtedly varied, some artists were recognized with awards and fellowships. In reviewing the history of the New Deal art projects, Richard D. McKinzie noted that one quarter of all the American prints highlighted in the British Fine Prints of the Year for 1937 were produced by artists working for the WPA/FAP.  Among its achievements was the development of a new printing process by the Philadelphia project: using carborundum in preparing engraving plates, printmakers could achieve new levels of tone and shade. The productivity of the section and reasonable prices of the prints it produced helped the unit contribute to the WPA's democratic goal of bringing art to the people. Many prints ended up in libraries, colleges, schools and government offices, as well as in private collections.2


Most of the prints in the Prints & Photographs Division's Fine Print filing series were transferred to the Library in 1943 from the WPA Art Program in Chicago. The hasty liquidation of the Federal Art Project was largely handled through the Central Allocation Unit in Chicago, which moved some 15,000 items in one three-week period. That may have been the specific source of the prints in the Library of Congress collection.


  1. Federal Art Project State File, 1936–1943 series description, RG 69, National Archives Catalog, National Archives and Records Administration, Accessed Feb. 22, 2023.
  2. Martin R. Kalfatovic, The New Deal Fine Arts Projects: A Bibliography (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1994), xxxvii; Richard D. McKinzie, The New Deal for Artists (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), 117-118.