Collection 1880s–1940s

Charles Sheeler. American Landscape. 1930 352

Oil on canvas, 24 x 31" (61 x 78.8 cm). Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller

Curator, Juliet Kinchin: The Ford Motor Company was established in 1907, and really transformed the automotive industry through the introduction of assembly line production, which was all about driving efficiency and boosting production capacity.

Ford's colossal River Rouge manufacturing complex in Dearborn, Michigan, was the largest integrated factory in the world. This mesmerized a generation of architects, artists, photographers, designers, who were looking to the complex as an example of the new technologies shaping the modern world.

Charles Sheeler spent six weeks photographing the complex, and those photographs provided a source of inspiration for this painting, American Landscape. Sheeler emphasizes the abstract structural and functional volumes. It is eerily silent, it lacks any sign of the human workers and the thundering noise of this huge manufacturing center.