In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president was because
he had a plan to get the United States out of the Depression. That year,
he established the National Recovery Act to deal with the economic woes
of the time. The NRA was a nationwide project to put Americans back
to work. In 1936, when Lehman was living in New York, he was chosen
to work as a mural artist under another relief plan called the Federal
Art Program. This program fell under the jurisdiction of the administrator
of the Works Progress Administration in New York City, Audrey McMahon.
Under the WPA, Lehman began designing Man's Daily Bread,
a large (20'x70') mural that was to be placed in the cafeteria of Riker's
Island Penitentiary in New York City.
As Lehman recalls, "I came up with the theme, Man's Daily
Bread because the mural was in the mess hall of Riker's Island
prison where eight to nine hundred prisoners ate three times a day.
So, it seemed to me that a theme that had some connection with not
only the handling of food, but the idea of earning one's bread by
one's own sweat so to speak, would have some good constructive connection
with that prison without being an obvious lecture."
Several details from Man's Daily Bread were shown from
1938-40 in various venues including the National Society of Mural Painters
and the Whitney Museum. Many reviews and reproductions in newspapers
and art publications also appeared at that time. Two large details from
this mural were exhibited in the American Art Today building at the
1939-40 World's Fair. One of these - The Driller was later
acquired by the Smithsonian National Collection of Fine Arts (now known
as the National Museum of American Art) for its permanent collection.
Five other details were bought by the Mitchel Wolfson Jr. Collection.
They are presently in the permanent collection of The Wolfsonian Foundation
in Miami Beach, Florida.
In 1936, another program was set up under the United States Treasury
Department called the Section of Fine Arts. Under this program, murals
were commissioned to artists based solely upon artistic merit. It had
nothing to do with whether the artist needed the work or not. The first
project that artists were assigned to were the new post offices that
were being built at the time all over the country.