Natural Power

  • Raymond White Skolfield, Natural Power, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.47

From wood fires to hydroelectricity, Raymond Skolfield’s painting tells how power shaped the town of Proctor, Vermont. Sutherland Falls, roaring down the middle of this snowy image, is also central to the town where the major industry is a large marble quarry powered by the falls. Part of the marble quarry complex is visible at the top of this painting. A standpipe for the quarry stands near the creek, colorfully enclosed by blue siding with red trim. Originally, a water-powered mill used belts to drive saws and other heavy equipment for the quarry. In 1905 the marble company replaced the mill with a hydroelectric plant, seen at the right in Skolfield’s painting. A large pipe running parallel to the waterfall feeds surging water into the plant, which powers the quarry and the town. This power helped to carve out snowy white blocks for such projects as the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., under construction in 1934. But as Skolfield points out in his painting, more old-fashioned, natural sources of power persisted as well. A man in the foreground uses muscle power to load his sled with logs he will split and burn in his fireplace to keep the winter cold at bay.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Natural Power
34 1836 18 in. (86.891.8 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 City
  • Occupation – industry – lumber
  • Landscape – waterfall
  • Architecture – industry – factory
  • Allegory – element – energy
  • Landscape – season – winter
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI