Classic Landscape

Dearborn, Michigan, USA
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Barney A. Ebsworth
Accession number
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As landscapes evolved, so too did artists’ response to them. Charles Sheeler perfectly captures such changes in his 1931 painting Classic Landscape. One of four compositions he completed of Ford Auto Company’s impressive River Rouge factory complex outside Detroit, Michigan, Classic Landscape depicts how thoroughly mechanized industrial production has shaped the natural world. In place of the pastoral scenes or sublime vistas of the previous century, Sheeler has painted what he considers to be the “classic landscape” of the modern age: streamlined, machine-made structures situated in a nature that has been irrevocably transformed by the progress of industry.