Automotive Industry (mural, Detroit Public Library)

Copied Marvin Beerbohm, Automotive Industry (mural, Detroit Public Library), 1940, oil on canvas mounted on board, 79 34 × 190 14 in. (202.6 × 483.2 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the Detroit Public Library, 1968.141

Artwork Details

Automotive Industry (mural, Detroit Public Library)
Not on view
79 34 × 190 14 in. (202.6 × 483.2 cm)
Credit Line
Transfer from the Detroit Public Library
Mediums Description
oil on canvas mounted on board
  • Figure group
  • Figure
  • Architecture — vehicle — automobile
  • Architecture — machine
  • Architecture — industry — factory
  • Occupation — industry — manufacturing
  • New Deal — Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project — Michigan
Object Number

Artwork Description

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