Introduction | The City | Company Towns | Documenting the 1930s | Farming

Time Off | Working the Landscape | Working the Waters

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Claire Leighton was an equally prolific wood engraver and writer/illustrator about the technique. Her 1932 book, Wood Engraving and Woodcuts, was largely responsible for the 1930s revival of wood engraving. Sympathetic to leftist politics, Leighton often depicted heroic, strong workers engaged in centuries-old activities. Hers is a nostalgic point of view, rather than one showing the realities of increasing mechanization and economic depression.

Landing, one of Leighton’s best-known wood engravings, demonstrates why she influenced subsequent generations of American printmakers. Here the viewer is caught up in the effective perspective of the diagonally-placed logs, their swirling patterns echoed in the snow-covered hills. She also captures the sense of chill in the air and teamwork.



While visiting Europe in 1908-09, Sheeler discovered the architectonic painting structure in the frescoes by Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca and in the work of Paul Cézanne.  Their effect can be seen in the clear structure of Sheeler’s paintings and the architectural imagery of his urban and factory subjects, including skyscrapers, bridges, docks, and chimney stacks. Architectural Cadences demonstrates this perfectly with its overlapping geometric planes of varying degrees of transparency.

The look of double exposure in this print is not accidental.  Sheeler had a second career as a professional photographer.  During the 1920s, he photographed for Vogue, documented the Ford River Rouge Plant, and made a photo-essay on Chartres Cathedral. Many of his paintings were based on photos and the two media influenced and enhanced each other.



Although best known for his prints, Harry Sternberg was also an effective painter. During the Depression, he was a supervisor in the graphics division of the WPA and in 1936 won a Guggenheim Fellowship to study the lives of Pennsylvania’s miners and steelworkers.

Sternberg’s generation of American artists was committed to exposing social ills and injustices, including those involving workers.  Smoke Stacks in the Moonlight might seem romantic thanks to the velvety blacks produced with the mezzotint technique. But black smoke partially blocks the moon. Only it and the blast furnaces’ fires illuminate the bug-sized workers caught in the steel trap of the factory.

IntroductionThe CityCompany TownsDocumenting the 1930sFarming
Time OffWorking the LandscapeWorking the Waters