Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:06 PM
Hopper had already forged his distinctive style so evocative of urban desolation when the Wall Street Crash of 1929 shattered the American Boom and international hopes for peace and prosperity. A world depression and the 'Hungry Thirties' were just around the corner.
For most of 1929, the Western world was not only prosperous but peaceful. One government after another committed its people to the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact which renounced war as an instrument of policy. The USSR and USA, though non-members of the League of Nations, adhered to the Pact, which eventually had 65 signatories. In 1929, the Young Plan tackled the remaining cause of ill-feeling between Germany and the wartime Allies by slashing the burden of reparations, and Allied troops began evacuating the Rhineland, which had been occupied since the end of the War. The French statesman Aristide Briand put forward proposals for a federated Europe.
A spate of books appeared which were more or less openly anti-war, concentrating on its horrors rather than questions of national 'war guilt'. Three famous examples, published in 1929, were Robert Graves's autobiography Goodbye To All That, Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, and the German writer Erich Maria Remarque's international best-seller later a famous film All Quiet on the Western Front.
The economic situation in the West was somewhat shaken except in the United States, where real wages and national wealth had doubled since the War. Prices of shares soared on the Wall Street Stock Exchange, till it seemed that, if you bought, you were certain to make money. Speculative mania raised the Dow Jones index to 300 by the end of 1928, and the trend continued through 1929. The index peaked at 381 in
August 1929; then, in September, confidence faltered and on 'Black Thursday', 24 October, the Crash came, with wave after wave of panic selling. By November, Dow Jones was down to 197 and thousands of speculators had been ruined. Frightened people rushed to secure their remaining capital, causing a disastrous run on the banks followed by closures that created new panics. In a downward spiral, industries were disrupted and millions became unemployed. The Great Depression lasted for years and, since the USA was a great creditor nation (and was soon to start calling in its loans), it spread all over the industrialized world. Apart from shattering the European economies, the Depression wrecked the Young Plan, destroyed many people's faith in democracy, and made possible the rise of Hitler and other dictators.
This year also marked the beginning of a new era for Soviet Russia, where Joseph Stalin had emerged as the leading figure. Stalin's principal rival, Trotsky, went into exile, and his theory of fomenting world-wide 'permanent revolution' was abandoned in favour of Stalin's policy of building 'socialism in one country'. At the same time Stalin defeated the 'Right Opposition', which opposed as premature the policy of collectivizing agriculture. The Rightist leader, Bukharin, and his closest associates were expelled from the Politburo.
Other events of 1929 included Alexander, King of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, declaring himself dictator, and re-naming his kingdom Yugoslavia. As a result of the Lateran Treaties between the Papacy and Mussolini's Italy, the Pope ceased to be the 'prisoner of the Vatican' (self-immured since the new Italian state seized the city of Rome in 1870). The Vatican was recognized as an independent city-state and Catholicism became in effect the state religion.
In 1929, the 'Talkies' were all the rage, and cinemas everywhere were being re-wired for sound. Sunbathing had become popular, and the first precautionary aids sun-tan lotion and Mexican straw hats appeared. The German Graf Zeppelin airship flew around the world while Richard Byrd, the American pioneer aviator, flew over the South Pole. The Museum of Modern Art in New York was opened. The ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev died, as did the two giants of First World War France, Marshal Foch and George Clemenceau. More ominously, so did the architect of Franco-German reconciliation, Gustav Stresemann.
Writer – Marshall Cavendish