"This screenprint is Based upon Gwathmey's earliest surviving oil painting, also entitled the "The Hitchhiker", of 1936 (Brooklyn Museum, New York), which he later described as his first mature painting. In 1938 he destroyed all of his previous work with the exception of this picture, the related screenprint and a couple of watercolors." –Stephen Coppel, "The American Scene, Prints from Hopper to Pollock", British Museum exhibition catalog (featured on the back cover), 2008.
Judd Tully, a journalist who interviewed Gwathmey in 1985, confirms that the painting is autobiographical: "The shirt-sleeved figure in the foreground, with thumb to the sky, could well be the painter, heading back home to Richmond" –Hot Off the Press, Tyler & Walker, Ed., 43.
Collections: Boston Museum of Fine Arts, British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Reba and Dave Williams.
Created while the country was still in the throws of the Great Depression, the subject of the work exposes the social inequalities of the time, contrasting the plight of the hitchhikers with the life of the affluent promoted in the background billboards. Gwathmey's use of flat color and graphic simplification to mock the imagery of consumerism and popular culture predates that of the Pop-Art movement by almost 20 years.