"Country Post Office," Julius J. Lankes ( 1931)
Country Post Office
Julius J. Lankes
In this simple scene typical of the American countryside, the post office building with horses and men lazing appears as nothing spectacular at first glance. Yet, the artist’s rendition of rural America celebrates both vernacular architecture and the everyday life of countryfolk. During the 1930s, American painter and woodcut master Julius J. Lankes produced many rural scenes for his portfolio Virginia Woodcuts (1930), of which this one is exemplary. Lankes studied art under American artists Philip Leslie Hale and William McGregor Paxton in the 1910s and later taught art at Wells College in Aurora, New York. In the 1940s he worked as an illustrator, contributing works to several publications, and became a longtime illustrator for his friend, the American poet Robert Frost. In this print, Lankes pays homage to the United States Postal Service, which had been operating since the Revolutionary War in the 1770s and was seen as a symbol of progress and helped unite the newly independent United States. The Post Office played a crucial role in connecting isolated areas through Rural Free Delivery (1896) and Parcel Post (1913). During the Great Depression Era of the 1930s, post offices were important public buildings, decorated with murals commissioned as part of the New Deal, which celebrated the working class.