Workers on the Cathedral of Learning

  • Harry W. Scheuch, Workers on the Cathedral of Learning, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.157

Workers scurry like busy ants to complete the University of Pittsburgh's lofty Cathedral of Learning. The men and trucks trample the winter's snow into mud as they labor through the frigid winter of 1933–1934 to house much-needed new classrooms. Carpenters nail timbers together to finish the scaffolding. The main part of the structure rises at the upper right, already clad in limestone blocks, while masons are still covering the lower stories of the façade in stone. Behind the Cathedral of Learning stand the gleaming white columns of the Mellon Institute Building, which was also under construction.

Artist Harry Scheuch painted the Cathedral of Learning twice for the PWAP. The first image is a close-up view of the masons at work (1964.1.157), while the second painting (1964.1.42) is a more distant view that reveals the horde of workers involved. Together the two paintings tell the story of this mighty undertaking. The forty-two-story structure was not substantially completed until 1937, and some interior work continued for decades after that. Like the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge, the Cathedral of Learning demonstrated that the Great Depression could not stop Americans from accomplishing great things.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Workers on the Cathedral of Learning
Not on view
30 1826 18 in. (76.566.5 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Allegory – arts and sciences – education
  • New Deal – Public Works of Art Project – Pennsylvania
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More from artist

More Artworks from the Collection