Kennedy Department of Justice Building: Bouché Mural – Washington DC

Project type: Art Works, Murals
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The New Deal is responsible for a magnificent array of artworks that embellish the Department of Justice building. The Treasury Section of Fine Arts commissioned artists to create 68 murals between 1936 and 1941 for $68,000, or one percent of the building cost.  The building’s murals depict scenes of daily life from American history and allegories on the role of justice in American society.

Louis Bouché painted a large oil on canvas mural, “Activities of the Department of Justice” in 1937.   This is the only artwork at the Department of Justice paid for by the Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP) rather than the Section of Fine Arts. The mural is a kind of triptych centered on a rounded corner doorway.

On the left are “Peaceful Activities of the Department of Justice draws on representations of economics, technology, and the law to show the Department’s positive influence on contemporary American life. The panel’s vignettes refer to laws established during the late 1800s and early 1900s: the Radio Act (1927), the Safety Appliance Act (1893), the National Banking Act (1864), the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906), and the Meat Inspection Act (1906).”

On the right, “In contrast, Violent Activities of the Department of Justice is comprised of scenes illustrating the need for the enforcement of justice, such as crimes on Indian reservations and racketeering.”

In the center, “Bouché paired a depiction of the peaceful arrival of an immigrant family with the arrest of a criminal. Secondary panels link the principles of law and justice with symbols of education and knowledge, further expounding on the mural series’ overall theme of establishing and maintaining a just society.” (DoJ 2009)

The Bouché mural can be found on the 5th floor of the Kennedy building.

Source notes

U.S. Department of Justice, The Robert F. Kennedy Building: Celebrating Art and Architecture on the 75th Anniversary, 1934-2009, p 43.

Project originally submitted by Charles Swaney on March 14, 2014.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Coordinates: 38.8929, -77.0250

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