At the Heart of Progress: Coal, Iron, and Steam since 1750 - Industrial Imagery from the John P. Eckblad Collection

January 24 - May 17, 2009



Object label text

The print collection of John P. Eckblad allows us to explore the progress of industry over the last two and a half centuries. At the heart of that progress lies the trio of coal, iron, and steam. Coal made possible the mass-production of iron, and iron began to replace wood and stone in construction. Iron also made the machines, fueled by coal and powered by steam, that transformed manufacturing and transportation. Among other things, steam engines pumped water out of the coal mines and hoisted coal to the surface.
Coal fueled everything from cooking stoves to battleships, and for almost a century coal gas provided the best available lighting for homes, factories, and city streets. Even today much of our electricity comes from generators powered by coal-fueled steam turbines.
In 2009 we continue to depend on the benefits of industrial progress, even as its costs, in pollution and global warming, become more obvious. But humans have always been aware that industrial progress had both a bright and a dark side. In this exhibition you can see how generations of artists have looked at both.
--Timothy A. Riggs
Coalbrookdale may not be the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, but it has a good claim to being the poster child. This little town in the west of England had been home to small-scale production of iron and steel since the 1530s, but in 1709, Abraham Darby introduced a new process for smelting iron, using coke (coal that has been refined by heating in ovens) instead of charcoal. The business expanded under Darby's son and grandson.
Beginning with small items like pots and kettles, Darby's company graduated to cast-iron rails for the horse-drawn railways used in and near coal mines. The company also made cylinders for the first steam engines used to pump water out of the mines. Abraham Darby III constructed the famous Coalbrookdale Iron Bridge (opened in 1780), the first major use of cast iron as a structural material.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the industrial innovations at Coalbrookdale made it something of a tourist attraction. Numerous artists traveled there to depict the mines and ironworks.
George Perry, British, 1718 - 1771, and
Thomas Smith of Derby, British, died 1767;
François Vivares, British, 1709 - 1780, engraver
A View of the Upper Works at Coalbrookdale, 1758
catalogue no. 1
In this view of the Darby ironworks, a wagon in the foreground transports one of its products, the cylinder of a Newcomen steam engine. This first practical form of engine compensated for very low steam pressure by a large volume of steam, using a gigantic cylinder and piston.
George Robertson, British, 1746[9?] - 1788, designer
Wilson Lowry, British, 1762 - 1824, engraver
An Iron Work for Casting of Cannon, and a Boring Mill, Taken from the Madeley Side of the River Severn, Shropshire, 1788
catalogue no. 2
Casting iron cannon and drilling out (boring) their barrels played a more important role in early industrial development than one might expect.
In 1775, John Wilkinson invented a boring machine for cannon that could drill holes through iron with far greater precision than ever before. James Watt, designing a steam engine that would be more efficient than the Newcomen engine in use at the time, turned to Wilkinson for precisely-machined cylinders that were essential for the engine to work. In return, one of the first Watt steam engines was used to pump the bellows at one of Wilkinson's blast furnaces.
This view, and the other three shown with it, come from a set of six prints depicting the industrial sights of Coalbrookdale and its surroundings.
George Robertson, British, 1746[9?] - 1788, designer
Francis Chesham, British, 1749 - 1806, engraver
A View of the Mouth of a Coal Pit near Broseley, in Shropshire, 1788
catalogue no. 3
The machinery of this early coal mine is primitive: the hoist seems to be worked by hand. But the wagon with flanged wheels, running on what look like wooden rails, is an omen for the future. Within fifty years steam engines would be hauling freight and passengers across England on what people began to call "rail-ways."
George Robertson, British, 1746[9?] - 1788, designer
James Fittler, British, 1758 - 1835, engraver
A View of Lincoln Hill, with the Iron Bridge in the Distance, Taken from the Side of the River Severn, 1788
catalogue no. 4
With a hundred-foot span, the Iron Bridge was a wonder of engineering when it opened in 1781, the first large structure built of iron. It has never been called anything but "The Iron Bridge," and the town that grew up around it is still called Ironbridge.
Limestone, used in iron-smelting, was quarried at Lincoln Hill. The piles of stone in the foreground of this print are probably waiting to be loaded on sailing barges, like those in the river to the right.
George Robertson, British, 1746[9?] - 1788, designer
Wilson Lowry, British, 1762 - 1824, engraver
The Inside of a Smelting House at Broseley, Shropshire, 1788
catalogue no. 5
Smelting is the process of extracting iron from iron ore. In a blast furnace, a mixture of limestone, ore, and burning charcoal or coke (refined coal) reaches a high temperature, fanned by a "blast" of air from a giant bellows. When iron has melted out of the ore, a door is opened at the bottom of the furnace to "tap" it.
Here liquid iron is flowing from the furnace into a long channel, with short branches running off at right angles. Because this formation resembled a sow with piglets, the long channel was known as the "sow" and the short ones as "pigs." Pig iron is still a term used for blocks of cast iron.
Philip James de Loutherbourg, British, 1740 - 1812, designer
William Pickett, British, 1792 - 1820, etcher
Iron Works, Colebrookdale, from The Romantic and Picturesque Scenery of England and Wales, 1805
aquatint, hand-colored
catalogue no. 6
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, coal was the primary force in industrial development. The first steam engines, built around 1710-20, were designed to pump water out of coal mines. These primitive and inefficient machines used vast amounts of coal, but they were practical because the mines themselves provided the fuel. Coal, refined into coke, made possible the production of iron and steel on a vast scale, which meant that better machines, including more efficient steam engines, could be made.
In the mining landscapes shown along this wall, every smokestack marks the place of a steam engine: pumping out water, hauling coal to the surface, or sending fresh air to the tunnels far below.
In Britain, the leader in industrial development, coal production rose from six million tons per year in 1770 to 220 million by 1900. Armies of miners fed the growing appetite of mills, railroads, and steamships for fuel. As late as the 1950s coal was the most important source of power for industry.
Thomas H. Hair, British, 1810 - 1882
Garesfield Colliery, 1839, in The Mines of Durham and Northumbria, 1844
catalogue no. 7
"This colliery, the property of the Marquis of Bute and Miss Simpson of Bradley, is situated in the township of Winlaton, parish of Ryton, about 7 miles south-west from Newcastle. It was commenced in the year 1800. The depth of the shaft is 25 fathoms...
"The coal is peculiarly adapted for making the best coke for iron manufactures. The engine is of 25 horse power. The waggons [sic] are transmitted, by means of horses and inclined planes, to Derwenthaugh staith; and the coals are thence carried by keels to the ships."
- Thomas Hair
Colliery is a general term for a coal mine and the buildings associated with it. A staith was a pier for loading coal on boats, and keels were flat-bottomed boats specifically designed for picking up coal from the pier and loading it on ships.
In the Blanzy region of eastern France, rich coal deposits provided the foundation for a mining empire under the control of the Chagot family. The three prints to the right show the Chagot domain as it existed in 1857.
The mining operations covered a wide stretch of country-side, centered in the little town of Montceau-les-Mines. At this point coal could be loaded on barges for transport on a major water route across France, the Canal du Centre. Blanzy coal supplied the iron and steel works of Le Creusot a few miles down the canal.
It is striking that as late as the 1850s there is no sign of steam railroad transport in these views. Both steam power and railroads appear everywhere, but the steam power is used for the mines, and the railroad freight cars are pushed by men or pulled by horses.
These expansive views offer an almost utopian picture of a peaceful and prosperous industry set in an attractive landscape. Probably they were commissioned or subsidized by the Chagots.
Ignace François Bonhommé, French, 1809 - 1881
Coal Mines of Blanzy: The Lucie and Le Magny Group, 1857
lithograph in black and brown
catalogue no. 8
The label pasted on this print identifies various features of the landscape. In the foreground are open-pit coal mines. Further back is the pithead of an underground mine, with the distinctive tower and wheels of its steam-powered hoist. In the distance at the left appears "the village of Le Magny, constructed by the Company for its workers, with school and chapel."
Ignace François Bonhommé, French, 1809 - 1881
Montceau-les-Mines, 1857
lithograph in black and brown
catalogue no. 9
Jules Chagot (1801-1877) controlled the mines of Blanzy; his nephew Léonce (1822-1893) became mayor of Montceau-les-Mines in 1856. Devout Catholics, the Chagots saw it as their duty to promote the welfare ­ and to control the behavior ­ of their employees. Besides building housing and schools, the company sponsored the construction of a grand church at Montceau-les-Mines. In 1857, construction of the church had only begun, but here it is shown as if already finished, dominating the landscape.
Ignace François Bonhommé, French, 1809 - 1881
Coal Mines of Blanzy: the Montmaillot Mine Complex, 1857
lithograph in black and brown
catalogue no. 10
In this view the combination of mining and agricultural life suggests an ideal world of harmony: miners returning from work pass fields of grain where reapers are gathering the harvest. At the lower right a figure bathes in a pond ­ perhaps a miner washing off coal dust?
Joseph Pennell, American, 1875 - 1926
The Things that Tower: Collieries, 1909
catalogue no. 11
This distinctively shaped structure is a breaker, a mill for breaking up the coal and sorting it by size.
A breaker was often built on a sloping site because the coal moved by gravity in the sorting process, sliding through a series of rotating, perforated drums.
Elizabeth Olds, American, 1896 - 1991
"Bootleg" Mine, Pennsylvania, 1937
catalogue no. 12
In the 1930s, unemployed miners sometimes created their own small-scale mining operations, extracting coal illegally from lands owned by the coal companies. Like the sellers of bootleg liquor during Prohibition, these "bootleg" miners often had the tacit support of their community and of local authorities.
Olds shows surface operations at one of these primitive mines. The miners are breaking up and sorting the coal, in a small-scale version of the process going on in Joseph Pennell's print just above.
Maxime Dethomas, French, 1867 - 1929
National Loan: 1920, 1920
color lithograph
catalogue no. 13
Dessirier, French, twentieth century
Coal: Wealth of the Nation, 1958
lithograph in black and yellow
catalogue no. 14
Maud and Miska Petersham, American, 1890 - 1971 and 1888 - 1960
Inside a Coal Mine, 1935, in The Story Book of Coal
color lithographs
catalogue no. 15
Anonymous, German, twentieth century
Toy Coal Mine, 1950s?
color lithographs on steel
catalogue no. 16
Coal mining was, and is, one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Coal gives off gases that can asphyxiate miners, or explode. Water can flood the mine; a cave-in can kill miners or bury them alive. Part of the horror of a mine disaster is that it can take place miles below the surface. Friends and family may not know for days whether miners are still alive, and whether they can be rescued before food, water, or air run out.
The two prints shown here, separated by almost two hundred years, present the same situation: the reaction above ground to an invisible catastrophe far below. The anonymous view of the Beaujonc coal mine shows a crowd gathering for news of 92 miners trapped by a flooded mine-shaft on February 28, 1812. The text below explains that 70 of the miners were rescued after five days.
In late December 1974 an accident in northern France took the lives of 42 miners. Raymond Mason, a British sculptor working in France, created a painted relief sculpture to commemorate the tragedy. In the print shown here, Mason breaks up the composition of the sculpture into a series of fragments ­ snap-shot views of individual reactions to the disaster.
Anonymous, French, nineteenth century
View of the Beaujonc Coal Mine near Liège [Belgium], 1811
engraving, hand-colored
catalogue no. 17
Raymond Mason, British, born 1922
The Tragedy of Liévin, 1977
catalogue no. 18
In art and literature, coal miners have been presented as rough savages, as brave civilian soldiers providing the raw material of modern civilization, and as victims of the mine-owner's greed and indifference to safety. The prints in this section range from matter-of-fact to heroic in their depiction of the miner.
Carrière's giant poster, made for the mining pavilion at the Paris World's Fair of 1900, suggests the danger of the miner's life by surrounding him with smoke and darkness. In the background, beyond a smokestack, a gigantic mound of coal or stone looms like a volcanic mountain.
Constantin Meunier portrays two miners from the Borinage coalfields of Belgium as monumental heads, dominating their surroundings like the presidential faces on Mount Rushmore. But in two etchings from the 1930s by Gustave Pierre, miners from the same region appear crouched in a tunnel too low to stand up in, or returning from the mine in joyless exhaustion.
Maximilien Luce, French, 1858 - 1941
Leaving the Pits
catalogue no. 19
Luce's print, probably dating from the 1890s, shows both men and women working in the mine. Women, known as "trieuses," sorted the coal brought up from the mine to remove dirt and bits of rock.
American mines employed boys rather than women for this low-paid work, less dangerous than the mining itself, but not much less dirty.
Jules Gustave Besson, born 1868, active 1896 - 1925
In the Black Country, 1898, from L'Estampe modern (The Modern Print)
color lithograph
catalogue no. 20
Eugène Carrière, French, 1849 - 1906
The Miner, 1900
lithograph in two tones of gray
catalogue no. 21
In the shadowy background of this poster one can see smokestacks, a giant pile of refuse from the mine, and the tower and wheel of a pithead, the apparatus for hoisting coal and miners up the mineshaft.
Constantin Meunier, Belgian, 1831 - 1905
Miners, Borinage, 1898, from Les Temps nouveaux (The New Day)
catalogue no. 22
Gustave Pierre, French, 1875 - 1939
Miners at rest, Underground, 1937, from Charbonnages d'Hensies-Pommeroeul (The Coal Mines of Hensies-Pommeroeul)
catalogue no. 23
In 1937 the management of the Henzies-Pommeroeul coal mines in Belgium commissioned a portfolio of prints to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the company. Despite the occasion, the mood of the prints is gloomy, reflecting the bad economic situation of the 1930s.
Around the world miners have often worked in tunnels like these, too small to stand up in. The faces of the two miners at the left eerily echo the design of Constantin Meunier's lithograph of forty years earlier, but without its aura of pride and heroism.
Gustave Pierre, French, 1875 - 1939
Miners Leaving Work, 1937, from Charbonnages d'Hensies-Pommeroeul (The Coal Mines of Hensies-Pommeroeul)
catalogue no. 24
Moving coal from where it is mined to where it is used has always been a major task. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, mountains of coal traveled to factories by barge or railroad car. Large factories and small workshops, like the Venetian glass-blowers in James McBey's print, depended on coal.
For more than a hundred years, coal was the fuel of choice for home heating and for cooking, throughout Europe and in most American cities. Well into the twentieth century coal furnaces heated many homes.
Today, coal consumption is much less visible than it was when coal trucks pulled up to the house with fuel for the furnace and the kitchen stove. When we think of cooking and heating, gas and electricity are the first things to come to mind. But for more than a century, much of
the "clean" energy of electricity has come from coal-fired generator plants.
About half a mile from where you are standing is a power plant that supplies the electricity for this Museum and the rest of the University. The fuel is coal.
Henri-Gabriel Ibels, French, 1867 - 1936
Theater Program: "The Weavers," 1892/3
color lithograph (proof before letters)
catalogue no. 25
Gerhardt Hauptmann's play "The Weavers" deals with an uprising of textile workers in the 1840s. We do not know just why Ibels chose to use this image for the program when the play was produced in Paris. Perhaps he felt that the mining and handling of coal was a contemporary equivalent for Hauptman's theme of exploited labor.
G. Lebart, French, active around 1900
Bernot Coal (Charbonage Bernot), 1895
color lithograph
catalogue no. 26
Anonymous, French, active around 1900
Factory view, circa 1900
color lithograph
catalogue no. 27
Roger Casse, French, 1880 - 1944
The Factory, ca. 1930
color lithograph
catalogue no. 28
This complex is apparently a colliery, with a pithead (hoisting machinery) and huge piles of mining waste in the distance. Casse is obviously less interested in detailed documentation than in assembling symbols of industry and commerce in a decorative design. He emphasizes the barge and canal because water was indeed the most efficient way to transport a heavy bulk material like coal.
This may have been a poster for classroom decoration in a school.
James McBey, British, 1893 - 1959
Glassblowers, Murano, 1925
catalogue no. 29
The heat to melt the glass for these craftsmen may not have come directly from coal. But if it came from a gas fire, the gas was coal gas, made by heating coal in ovens. Natural gas did not begin to replace coal gas in Europe until the 1940s.
Louis Lozowick, American, 1892 - 1973
Edison Plant, 1929
catalogue no. 30
Julius Tanzer, American, died 1963
Harlem Coal Yard, 1936
catalogue no. 31
Robert Martin, American, 1888 -1971
Coal Pickers, 1940
catalogue no. 32
"Ever since anyone in the Pennsylvania anthracite field can remember, it has been customary for miners and their families to go with sacks or pails ... and pick coal from among the rock and slate thrown out in the breaking and cleaning processes at the big collieries. The pickers usually were the poorer families. Most of the companies permitted this, and the "pickings," as a rule, were used for fuel in miners' homes. Occasionally some miner paid his church dues or a small grocery bill with a few bags of coal he had picked up on the dumps. No one ever sold it for cash."
- Louis Adamic, The Nation, January 1935
Iron ore is one of the earth's most abundant materials, and human beings have used it since ancient times. But before the 1750s iron and steel of high quality were scarce and expensive. Smelting (extracting iron from iron ore) and adding small amounts of other elements to give the iron or steel strength and flexibility were laborious processes with uncertain results. Producing good wrought iron or steel is like making a cake when the oven temperature is well over two thousand degrees, and the mixing bowl is in the oven.
In places like Coalbrookdale, iron-smelters gradually developed processes that allowed them to make iron and steel in large quantities -- enough for machinery, bridges, and skyscrapers. Two views of the French industrial center of Le Creusot show how between 1780 and 1870 it grew from a single ironworks to a vast complex for the production of iron and steel. Other prints in this section trace the progress of iron and steel from ore to finished product: furnaces that extract iron from the ore, a ladle pouring liquid iron or steel into molds, the forging processes that shape the metals, and the structures and machines that are made from them.
In several of the images we can see the transformation of industry that took place between 1850 and 1900. Machines, factories, and structures like bridges and ships grew bigger, and machine tools increasingly replaced hand work. In an engraving by James Sharples, for example, a team of workers hand-forges a piece of iron; George Clausen's later print shows a giant steam hammer for similar tasks.
In the early 1780s John Wilkinson, a Coalbrookdale ironmaster, sent his brother William to France. With a group of French financiers and the patronage of King Louis XVI, William Wilkinson formed a company to exploit the coal and iron resources of Burgundy, in the eastern part of the country. By 1785 four blast furnaces were operating near the little village of Le Creusot.
An early view of the iron works shows a group of buildings with the grandeur and symmetry of a chateau. Anchors and cannons lying in the courtyard emphasize the foundry's role in sustaining French military power. But political and economic upheavals slowed the growth of the industry, and in 1836 the firm was bankrupt.
At this point Adolphe Schneider (1802-1845) and his brother Eugène (1805-1875) took over the management. Under the Schneiders the firm expanded rapidly. Fueled by coal from its own mines and from those nearby at Blanzy, Le Creusot became a factory-city producing a wide range of products: from armor plate and structural steel to locomotives and elevators. The Schneider family continued to control the factories until 1960.
Anonymous, French, eighteenth century
View of the Foundry and Forges at Le Creusot, 1780s, printed after 1790
catalogue no. 33
André Gambey, French, active 1873 - 1879, designer
Le Creusot, 1873
photogravure from a painting
catalogue no. 34
Thomas Allom, British, 1804 - 1872, designer
James Sands, British, 1811 - 1841, engraver
Lymington Iron Works on the Tyne, 1832, from Durham and Northumberland Illustrated
engraving, hand-colored
catalogue no. 35
Jean Joseph Bonaventure Laurens, French, 1801 - 1890
Blast Furnaces in Pouzin, 1871, from Album du Chemin de Fer de Lyon à la Mediterranée. Cinquième Collection (The Railroad from Lyon to the Mediterranean: Album no. 5)
catalogue no. 36
Maximilien Luce, French, 1858 - 1941
Blast Furnace, Factories at Charleroi, 1898, from Pan
color lithograph
catalogue no. 37
Harry Sternberg, American, 1904 - 2001
Blast Furnace #1, 1937
catalogue no. 38
James E. Allen, American, 1894 - 1964
Teeming Ingots, 1935
catalogue no. 39
"Teem" is an archaic word for the "pour out" ­ the operation of pouring liquid steel into molds to make blocks of solid metal called ingots. This practice continued in the steel-making industry into recent times.
James Sharples, British, 1825 - 1893
The Forge, 1859
engraving, hand-colored
catalogue no. 40
George Clausen, British, 1852 - 1944
The Great Hammer, 1917, from The Great War: Britain's Efforts and Ideals; Making Guns
catalogue no. 41
P. Grosjean, French, twentieth century, designer
Fabrication of Bar Steel, 1930, in Aciéries de Longwy (The Steelworks of Longwy)
photogravure in red and black
catalogue no. 42
This book celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the steelworks at Longwy, in northeastern France, with illustrations of the stages of manufacture. Here bars of steel are shaped in a rolling mill, passing through successive sets of rollers.
In this highly mechanized setting, it is interesting to see that the red-hot bars, flexible as spaghetti, are snaked across the floor by hand from one machine to another.
George Hawkins the younger, British, 1819 - 1852
Britannia Bridge, 1848
color lithograph
catalogue no. 43
Muirhead Bone, British, 1876 - 1953
A Shipyard Seen from a Big Crane, circa 1917,
from The Great War: Britain's Efforts and Ideals; Building Ships
catalogue no. 44
Emile Beaulieu, American, active 1852 - 1865
Bridesburg Machine Works, 1856
color lithograph
catalogue no. 45
Tamagno, French, twentieth century
Peugeot, circa 1920
color lithograph
catalogue no. 46
Founded in 1810, the Peugeot company became a leading maker of steel products: tools and machine parts. The firm adopted the lion as an emblem as early as the 1840s. Peugeot began to produce bicycles in 1882, and automobiles in 1889. By 1912 it accounted for half the production of autos in France.
From the design of the automobile, it is likely that this poster dates from between about 1910 and 1920. It is interesting to note that although the auto takes the lead, the bicycles are far more numerous. In the early twentieth century, even Peugeot may still have seen the bicycle as the people's vehicle, and the car as an upper-class luxury.
Refining coal into coke for iron-smelting gave rise to a by-product: the gas that was produced when the coal was baked in ovens. Coal-gas soon found its own uses as a fuel and a source of light. It provided the best available lighting for streets, houses, and factories all through the nineteenth century. The first internal-combustion engines were designed to run on coal-gas. A calendar for the Pierson Gas Company shows one of these early gas motors, the Crossley engine.
Long before the gas engine, the coal-iron-steam triad revolutionized transportation. For centuries roads made with wooden or metal rails, and wagons built to run on them, had carried coal out of the mine or from the mine to a river or canal. But in 1804, a steam engine first replaced horses on one of these "rail-ways" and over the next century railroads spread across the world. Bourne's print of the first railroad out of London and Kasimir's image of a giant locomotive virtually span the history of the steam train.
Steam also powered boats, cranes like those shown here in the prints by Raleigh and Detwiller, and machinery of all kinds. In the typical nineteenth-century factory, a large steam engine transmitted power to individual machine tools through an elaborate system of spinning drums and belts. Nevinson's view of an aircraft engine factory during the First World War shows how the system worked.
William Read, British, active 1820 - 1839
Drawing the Retorts, Brick Lane Gas Works, 1821, in A Thousand Experiments in Chemistry
aquatint, hand colored
catalogue no. 47
This early technical illustration shows the process of gas production. Coal was baked in retorts: chambers designed to collect the gas that it gave off. Here the exhausted coal, transformed into coke, is being raked out of the retorts so that they can be recharged with fresh coal.
Gustave Doré, French, 1832 - 1882/3
Lambeth Gas Works, 1872, from London, a Pilgrimage
wood engraving
catalogue no. 48
Compagnie Française des papiers-monnaie (publisher), French, active 1890s
J. and O. G. Pierson, Calendar for 1896, 1895
catalogue no. 49
Anonymous, French, early twentieth century
Economize on Gaslight, 1917
color lithograph
catalogue no. 50
This is one of a series of posters designed by French schoolgirls during the First World War, as part of a national effort to conserve energy.
Hermann Raunheim, German, active in France, 1817 - 1895, designer
Aumont and Leroux (H. Aumont and Alexandre Leroux), French, active 1849 - 1867, lithographers
National Rubber Company, Langlée Factory, 1850s
catalogue no. 51
Even as railroads spread across Europe and America, water transport continued to be essential for freight. This factory is clearly designed to ship goods by water, whether the boats are powered by oar, sail, or steam.
Henry Raleigh, American, 1880 - 1946
Bridgeport Barges
catalogue no. 52
John Cooke Bourne, British, 1814 - 1896
Berkhampstead, Herts. June 10th 1837, in Drawings of the London and Birmingham Railway, 1839
lithograph in black and gray
catalogue no. 53
Luigi Kasimir, Austrian, 1881 - 1962
Henschel Locomotive, South Africa, circa 1953
etching and aquatint, printed in color
catalogue no. 54
Kasimir is best-known for picturesque views of old European cities and architectural monuments. However, he produced at least two etchings for the Henschel Locomotive Company.
The background of this print is Table Mountain in South Africa. The African setting for a Henschel locomotive was of course a strong advertisement for the global reach of the firm. More broadly, it could serve as a symbol of the world-wide triumph of industrial civilization.
C. R. W. Nevinson, British, 1889 - 1946
Making the Engine, 1917, from The Great War: Britain's Efforts and Ideals; Building Aircraft
catalogue no. 55
In a factory like this, a central steam engine supplied power to all the machines through an elaborate system of overhead pulley and long belts. Nevinson makes the jungle of belts and shafts into a powerful image of a mechanical environment. Ironically, by the time of this print, the system was already becoming obsolete, as smaller gas or electric motors replaced the central engine.
Frederick K. Detwiller, American, 1882 - 1953
The Spur, New York City, 1924
catalogue no. 56
A tall chimney does two things: it increases the flow of air to the fire (and the heat the fire generates) and it helps carry away smoke and its pollutants. Wherever coal was burned in large quantities ­ to smelt iron, to work steel, or to power steam machinery -- a smokestack was there. The more industry grew, the taller and more numerous the smokestacks became.
For about two centuries the tall stack with its plume of smoke has been an ambivalent image: a symbol of both prosperity and pollution. An artist can manipulate an image to emphasize one message or the other. Where isolated plumes of smoke punctuate a blue sky we are more inclined to think of active industry, full employment, and its profit. When the smoke plumes blend and cover the sky, we think of a poisoned environment.
Henry Warren, British, 1793 - 1879, designer
George Greatbach, British, active 1850 - 1869, engraver
The Black Country (near Bilston)
engraving, hand-colored
catalogue no. 57
Camille Pissarro, French, 1831 - 1903
Factory at Pontoise, 1874
catalogue no. 58
Joseph Pennell, American, 1857 - 1926
The Great Stack, Sheffield, 1909
catalogue no. 59
The three posters on this wall were made near or after the end of the First World War. The different moods they convey are appropriate to the three nations where they were made: victorious America, war-weary France, and defeated Germany.
In the American poster, factories promise a job to the returning soldier, and their billowing white smoke looks like a summer cloud. The smoking factory chimneys in the French poster darken the sky a bit more, but they too send a message of prosperity, in conjunction with the sun-filled landscape of family life, reconstruction, and farming in the foreground.
In Germany, the factory chimneys emit no smoke, and that is a bad sign. The factory has been idled by a strike, and children are going hungry.
Henri Baptiste Lebasque, French, 1865 - 1937
Peace Loan (Emprunt de la Paix), 1918
color lithograph
catalogue no. 60
Cesar Klein, German, 1876 - 1954
The One Who Does not Work is his Children's Gravedigger, 1919
color lithograph
catalogue no. 61
E. M. Ashe, American, 1867 - 1941
After the Welcome Home, a Job, 1919
color lithograph
catalogue no. 62
Jean Emile Laboureur, French, 1877 - 1943
The Factories, 1902
catalogue no. 63
Maximilien Luce, French, 1858 - 1941
Rotterdam Harbor, circa 1908
catalogue no. 64
Herbert Lespinasse, American, active in France, 1884 - 1972
Factories (Les Usines), 1914/16
catalogue no. 65
Over the last two centuries human beings have accommodated themselves -- sometimes willingly, sometimes grudgingly -- to a world changed by the industrial revolution. This part of the exhibition shows a variety of responses to life in that world. Some are simply documentary views, but most have a strong symbolic content.
Romance flowers among miners and factory workers in posters for a novel, The Black-Faces, and a lost silent film, The Black Wall. Prints by Wadsworth and Kreienbuhl depict domestic life in the shadow of industry. In a tiny print by Maurice Dumont, female figures suggest a spiritual presence in the industrial environment, and Pascale Hémery's Woman-Factory is a symbolic evocation of the growing power of women in architecture and industrial design in the 1920s and 1930s. Finally, Steinlen's Last Refuge of Liberty and Sternberg's Enough link politics and labor.
Théophile Steinlen, Swiss, 1859 - 1923
The Last Refuge of Liberty, 1894
catalogue no. 66
At a time when a coal miners' strike could virtually stop industrial production, the power of the miner could be seen as a threat to civilization or a hope for the transformation of society.
Steinlen created posters and political cartoons for a variety of social causes. Here the working class, personified by a miner, is the last refuge of liberty. Another version of this image was published as the cover of a left-wing newspaper, Le Chambard socialiste (The Socialist Rumpus).
Maurice Dumont, French, 1870 - 1899
Untitled, 1895, plate 4 from Autour de la ville (Surroundings of the city)
drypoint and aquatint
catalogue no. 67
Théophile Steinlen, Swiss, 1859 - 1923
The Black-Faces (Les gueules noires), 1907
lithograph in black and brown
catalogue no. 68
Vitagraph company (publisher), American, 1897 - 1925
The Black Wall, 1910
color lithograph
catalogue no. 69
Edward Wadsworth, British, 1889 - 1949
Yorkshire, 1920
catalogue no. 70
Wadsworth grew up in the Yorkshire town of Cleckheaton, where his family owned a textile mill, and the generic title of the print may conceal a reference to his own roots. The mills and domestic housing, with a stepped street between, convey the image of a small mill town on a hillside.
Harry Sternberg, American, 1904 - 2001
Enough, 1947
catalogue no. 71
Jürg Kreienbühl, Swiss, born 1932
The Campground of the Poor, 1981
catalogue no. 72
Pascale Hémery, French, born 1965
Woman-Factory (La Femme-usine), 1998
color linocut
catalogue no. 73
The artist writes that this print "is one of a series of illustrations commissioned by the magazine Urbanisme ... nine color linocuts on the theme 'the feminine gender.' The idea was to evoke gender in architecture and see how women have been able to revise our vision of the city.... Woman-Factory illustrated a text on 'pioneers' [in architecture and design, in the 1920s and 1930s].... For me that is the period when women were able to benefit from a social advancement unprecedented in Europe; they were on the point of acting on their environment. I wanted to suggest a woman of that period, capable, through her character as a woman, of seizing factories to make something of them.
"When I look at this print now, it makes me think of my grandmother who came from a working-class background and was able to go beyond it."
In the last fifty years, the worldwide industrial landscape has changed drastically. Coal mining has ceased in Europe. China now produces five times as much steel as the United States. With coal, oil, and nuclear power challenged by advocates of natural sources like sun, wind, and tide, the future of energy is likely to be much more diverse, and more diffuse, in the coming century than it was in the last two. As we tear down obsolete mine and factory buildings or turn them into museums of industrial history, artists have begun to look at them with the nostalgic awe that ruined temples or castles evoked in the past.
Each of the three artists represented in this section has taken a different approach to the transformation of the industrial world. Trignac's Refinery is a fantasy, showing a steel forest engulfed by a natural one. Secheret's view of a cliff-like building is the memorial to a steel plant that was closing down at the time he depicted it and has since been demolished.
In contrast, McPherson's Clairton shows a still-active plant for producing coke, the form of coal that is essential for production of iron and steel, just as it was in Coalbrookdale two hundred and fifty years ago. The combination of night, fire, and smoke is as dramatic today as it was in the earliest views of industry. As our hopes for the future center on clear skies and clean energy, McPherson's image has the fascination of a look into the past.
Jean-Baptiste Secheret, French, born 1957
Mondeville, 1991
color monotype on gray paper
catalogue no. 74
Gérard Trignac, French, born 1955
The Refinery, 1993
etching, engraving and drypoint
catalogue no. 75
Craig McPherson, American, born 1948
Clairton, 1997
mezzotint on green paper
catalogue no. 76


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