Unexpected Beauty

Elsie Driggs was inspired to make this painting by a childhood memory of Pittsburgh’s steel mills. Returning to that city twenty years later, she wanted to visit one of the mills, but was told that it was no place for a woman. Later she wrote that she stared at the mills and told herself, “‘This shouldn’t be beautiful. But it is.’ And it was all I had, so I drew it.” What kind of environment is Driggs showing you? Do you think it is beautiful? Why or why not?

Think of a place that is beautiful or special to you, but might not be beautiful to anyone else! It could be your kitchen, the backseat of a car, your favorite store, or street. Draw or paint this place from memory. Use simple shapes and just a few colors.

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Elsie Driggs, Pittsburgh, 1927. Oil on canvas, 34 1/4 × 40 1/4 in. (87 × 102.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 31.177 © Estate of Elsie Driggs

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