Gerald Sargent Foster (1900 - 1987 )

The painter and illustrator Gerald Sargent Foster was born in Westfield, New Jersey in 1900. He was a student at the American Academy in Rome and the National Academy of Design. He was associated with the American Artists Professional League and exhibited there in addition to showing his work at the Art Institute of Chicago, the MacBeth Gallery of New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.(1)

Foster was also a Works Projects Administration (WPA) artist. The WPA “was created in May 1935 by Presidential order (Congress did not set it up). It was the largest and most comprehensive New Deal agency. It continued and expanded the FERA relief programs begun under Herbert Hoover and continued under Franklin D. Roosevelt. Headed by Harry L. Hopkins, it was a “make work” program that provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression. WPA projects primarily (90%) employed unskilled blue-collar workers in construction projects across the nation, but also employed some white-collar artists, musicians, and writers on smaller-scale projects, and even ran a circus.”(2)

Foster painted murals for the United States Post offices in Freehold, Cranford, and Millburn, New Jersey, as well as Poughkeepsie, New York.(3) The artist died in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1987.(4)


(1) website (see link below).

(2) web site: Projects Administration

(3) Who Was Who in American Art, p. 210.

(4) web site (see link below).


“Sailboats” [probably Carnegie Lake, Princeton]. Photograph courtesy Pedersen Gallery, Lambertville, NJ (609/397-1332).
Molly Pitcher

“Molly Pitcher,” 1936, tempera, mural created for the Freehold Post Office. Photograph courtesy Ken Sheinbaum.
Molly Pitcher mural installed in Monmouth County Public Library, Freehold

“Molly Pitcher” mural installed in the Monmouth County Public Library, Freehold. Photograph courtesy Ken Sheinbaum.

The first painting above, “Sailboats,” may depict Carnegie Lake, Princeton, which Foster often painted.(1)

Foster’s mural “Molly Pitcher” (also shown above) was created for the Freehold, New Jersey post office. Painted in tempera in 1936, the mural was commissioned by the Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts, one of the federal art projects sponsored under Roosevelt’s New Deal administration. It has been housed for some time in the Monmouth County Public Library.(2)

“Molly Pitcher” depicts a scene from the Battle of Monmouth. “The Battle of Monmouth was an inconclusive battle of the American Revolutionary War fought on June 28, 1778. The main American Continental Army under George Washington attacked the rear of the British Army's column led by Sir Henry Clinton as they left Monmouth Court House (modern Freehold Borough, New Jersey). American General Charles Lee led the advance and initiated the first attack on the column's rear. When the British turned to flank him, he ordered a general retreat, which soon became disorganized. Washington argued with Lee, then personally rallied the troops and repelled two counterattacks.”

“On a very hot day (perhaps higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit), the battle was a standoff. Both sides lost as many men to sunstroke as to the enemy. Both sides retired at nightfall. The battle was the last major engagement of the northern theatre, and the largest one-day battle of the war when measured in terms of participants. Lee was later court-martialed for his actions. The legend of ‘Molly Pitcher’ is usually associated with this battle. According to one story, she was a housewife who came to battle with her husband, and took his place at the cannon after he fell. While apparently based on a true incident, the story was greatly embellished over the years.”(3)

(GP, Spring 2006)

(1) Information courtesy Roy Pedersen, Lambertville.

(2) web site (see link below).

(3) web site: of Monmouth

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