Thomas Pollock Anshutz, The Ironworkers' Noontime, 1880
Oil on canvas, 17 x 23 7/8 in. (43.2 x 60.6 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, 1979.7.4
Born in Kentucky, Thomas Pollock Anshutz moved with his family in 1863 to Wheeling, West Virginia, where he spent his teenage years growing up amid the region's urban factories that dominated the banks of the Ohio River. He went on to becomes one of the most important art teachers in the United States, teaching for nearly three decades at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia, where he influenced the next generation of American realist painters. The Ironworkers' Noontime portrays a group of workers at a nail factory in Wheeling, West Virginia. The workers are displayed across a shallow foreground, while the colossal foundry stretches as far as the eye can see. Anshutz began the preparatory drawings for this picture during one of his yearly visits to see family who lived in Wheeling. The labor he depicts was then being impacted by increasing mechanization, which posed a threat to skilled American workers.
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