University Museums

Title: Drought
Name: Sculpture
Date: 1938
Period: Depression Era
Medium: Plaster
Country/Culture: American
Dimensions: 21 3/4 x 7 x 13 in. (55.2 x 17.8 x 33 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Gift of the Class of 1919. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Christian Petersen Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: um85.49
More Information
Inspired by the sculpture of the same name, this poem entitled "Drought" was written by J.C. Cunningham, a personal friend of Christian Petersen. J.C. and his family experienced many hardships in his boyhood because of drought and loss of crops. It was very difficult to express the hopeless watching for a cloud with the strength of restrained lines. It was two years before J.C. was satisfied - - if a poet is ever satisfied with his lines.

This sculpture represents the devastating effects of the extreme floods and droughts that ravaged the Tennessee Valley in the 1930s and the fragility of human life. The mother is malnourished, and without any sustenance she is unable to feed her child. Her vacant expression has given up hope of life and a future.


Drought - J.C. Cunningham

The brave child Hope
Lies starving on the mother's knees.
Hershrunken breasts have failed
When empty skies
Mocked back the cry for rain.

Both day and night
The cattle moan
For drink and parceled forks of hay.
High poised and ugly buzzards circle slow
To drop like plummets when some beast
Staggering falls to rise no more.
The dried up corn breaks from its roots
The burning winds suck added heat
From pastures dry as parchment from a desert tomb.