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Automotive Industry (mural, Detroit Public Library)

1940 Marvin Beerbohm Born: Toronto, Ontario, Canada 1908 Died: North Olmstead, Ohio 1981 oil on canvas mounted on board 79 3/4 × 190 1/4 in. (202.6 × 483.2 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the Detroit Public Library 1968.141 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, South Wing


Gallery Label

The Works Progress Administration commissioned Automotive Industry for a library in Detroit, the automobile capital of the world. Beerbohm celebrated the nation's industrial might and the sweat of the laborers who made it happen. At the very center of this mural is a cutaway view of an engine, showing the piston arm pushing down and around the crankshaft to turn the wheels. Beerbohm repeated this shape eight times across the span of the image in the muscular arms of the men who build the cars. The different parts and processes of the factory surround these workers who are like the motor's piston and its connecting arm, at the very heart of the enterprise. The WPA commissioned thousands of images like this, not only to encourage blue-collar workers but to help the nation's artists feel that they were a vital part of America's workforce.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Architecture - industry - factory

Architecture - machine

Architecture - vehicle - automobile

Figure(s) in interior - industry

Occupation - industry - manufacturing

New Deal - Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project - Michigan

painting - mural

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

wood

About Marvin Beerbohm

Born: Toronto, Ontario, Canada 1908 Died: North Olmstead, Ohio 1981

More works in the collection by
Marvin Beerbohm