Robert White

b. 1907, Oskaloosa, IA - d. 1986, Chicago, IL

Francis Robert White was a social realist painter active in Chicago and Iowa in the 1930s and 1940s. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1919 and later at the Arts Student League of New York in 1933, under John Sloan, Henry Wickey, and John Steuart Curry. White was active in the Federal Art Projects of 1933–1942, serving as district supervisor in Chicago and as state director in Iowa in 1938. In 1942, he returned to Illinois as supervisor of the Illinois FAP exhibition unit. White exhibited his work widely, including at the Art Institute of Chicago; the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC; the Kansas City Art Institute; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; the New York City World's Fair; and the Whitney Museum, New York. He was a member of the American Artists Congress.

This Untitled watercolor is likely a study for an oil painting, Memorial Day Massacre Republic Steel Strike, South Chicago, 1937. Like the painting, it captures the turbulence and unrest of the era, showing the “Little Steel Strike,” in which ten of the approximately one hundred demonstrators protesting Republic Steel’s refusal to sign union contracts were shot and killed by Chicago police. White depicted a jumble of bodies—protesters and policemen—along with what in the painting are billy clubs but here appear to be factory or industrial armaments.

Lisa Meyerowitz


“Memorial Day Massacre.” Illinois Labor History Society, http://www.illinoislaborhistory.org/memorial-day-massacre.html

Norton, Richard. Modern Art in America. Chicago: Robert Henry Adams Fine Art, 1992.

The Stone City Art Colony and School, 1932–1933. Francis Robert White. http://projects.mtmercy.edu/stonecity/artists/white.html

Artist image: Francis Robert White, c. 1930. Photographer unknown. Holger Cahill papers, 1910–1993. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Works by Robert White