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Ralston Crawford

Steel Foundry, Coatesville, Pa.

1936–37

about this work

During the Depression, Ralston Crawford’s paintings of highways, grain elevators, and steel foundries captured America’s enduring optimism about technology and progress. Like the work of his Precisionist contemporaries, such as Elsie Driggs and Charles Sheeler, Steel Foundry, Coatesville, Pa. depicts the functional architecture of commerce and industry using bold geometric forms and crisp lines. In Crawford’s portrayal, the foundry becomes a looming silhouette devoid of human presence, its architecture reduced to an arrangement of flat, monochromatic planes. Two fences act as barriers that close off the structure from the street. Crawford exaggerates the size and severity of the building by contrasting it sharply with the flattened fences and telephone poles in the foreground, as well as the background of wispy clouds.

Ralston Crawford, Steel Foundry, Coatesville, Pa., 1936–37  37.10  
Ralston Crawford, Steel Foundry, Coatesville, Pa., 1936–37. Oil on canvas, 32 × 40 in. (81.3 x 101.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  37.10  On view For Teachers