Precisionism and its Involvement with Sociological Matters during the Machine Age

Charles Sheeler’s American Landscape and Classic Landscape*

  • Andrea Diederichs (Autor/in)


Until today, Precisionism is regarded as an apolitical and asocial art form, relegated to aestheticism. In my research, I explore various themes in Charles Sheeler's commissioned and independent works for the Ford Motor Company. I examine how Sheeler forms a visual rhetoric of the industrial modern age, and how his awareness of changes in the American industrial landscape is conveyed. What messages are implied in his painted works, but extraneous in the photographs? This reconstruction will reveal Precisionism's ambiguity: Sheeler used his art as an instrument to expose the negative effects of an increasingly mechanical autonomy and to comment on the American workforce's dispensability, with an emphasis on its de-qualification and anonymity. In particular, Sheeler's figures play a vital role in his industrial oeuvre, and their depiction demonstrates that the artist is aware of the challenges that the Machine Age bodes for the American workforce, and human labor in general.