Island Dock Yard

  • Karl Fortess, Island Dock Yard, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.94

Exhibition Label
Trains, trucks, and industrial buildings were what Karl Fortess envisioned when the Public Works of Art Project suggested that he depict "the American Scene." The artist left his home in the picturesque artists' colony of Woodstock, New York, and traveled ten miles to Kingston to make this painting. Kingston had long been a thriving Hudson River port town that supplied Pennsylvania coal and local brick, stone, and cement to New York City. The Depression slowed shipping, but a newly invented concrete mixture stimulated the local cement business. Fortess’s pictorial research at Kingston was demanding, as he noted, "Inclement weather and bad roads have made it impossible to go into Kingston as often as necessary."

Fortess described his painting as "a view of the Kingston Point railway yard, showing track intersections, [a] station, freight trains, . . . shacks, and [a] background of buildings with a suggestion of a plain and barren winter trees [on] a grey day." The artist emphasized the angular geometry of the structures. He played the predominant shadowy gray colors against spots of intense red, yellow, and blue. Trucks and trains hurry to and fro, but the action proceeds without the presence of a single visible human figure.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Luce Center Label

Karl Fortess painted this image in the 1930s at Kingston Point landing, an industrial dock on the Hudson River in New York. He emphasized the bleakness of this wintry landscape by painting the bare trees and overcast sky with dark colors. But the orange train cars, yellow huts, and vivid red dockyard sign stand out against the gloomy background, creating an image of energy and activity in the dead of winter.

Island Dock Yard
Not on view
32 1/4 x 48 1/8 in. (81.8 x 122.2 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • New Deal – Public Works of Art Project – New York State
  • Architecture – vehicle – truck
  • Architecture – vehicle – train
  • Architecture – industry – Island Dock Co. Inc.
  • Landscape – bird's eye view
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI