Industrial Series, #1, 1928
Charles Sheeler (American, 1883–1965)
Image: 8 3/16 x 11 1/8 in. (20.8 x 28.3 cm); sheet: 11 7/16 x 16 3/16 in. (29.1 x 41.1 cm)
John B. Turner Fund, 1966 (66.593)
When Charles Sheeler visited the new Ford motor plant in River Rouge, Detroit, he gathered a wealth of subject matter. His time at River Rouge resulted in thirty-two photographs commissioned by the Ford Motor Company, as well as five paintings, three drawings, two watercolors, and one print. This print, a lithograph, depicts the River Rouge cement plant section with a single smokestack (at right) and its slag screen house (at center). In the latter facility, slag, an impure by-product of molten iron, was skimmed off and filtered for use in bricks, cement, and other durable materials. In the foreground, a locomotive makes its way through the scene, progressing at a slight diagonal across the composition. (The print reproduces the actual view of the plant in mirror image, due to the reversal of the printmaking process.) Sheeler's panoramic view of the industrial landscape created by Henry Ford is distanced, orderly, and still; it is a contemporary idyll, with no foreshadowing of the labor disputes that occurred within the plant or the economic crisis faced by the United States in the early 1930s. Industrial Series, # 1 is closely related to Sheeler's oil painting American Landscape of 1931 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), which re-created the same setting.