The quintessential painter of the machine age, Fernand Leger observed the effects of modern technology in the trenches as a soldier in the French army during World War I. Featuring workers whose bodies appear to be assembled from standardized industrial parts, The Builders (1920) exemplifies the style he developed after the war. Unlike the toiling laborers of Thomas Hart Benton’s mural, America Today, the builders here fuse seamlessly with the scaffolding and gears around them, as though they are part of one, harmonious machine. In the 1930s and 1940s. Leger would go on to make his own murals, featuring abstracted images of industry and machine power.
Photographed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
During the 1930s, Stuart Davis, who criticized Thomas Hart Benton’s self-consciously American art as inherently xenophobic, and [referred to] the elongated figures in his paintings as dehumanizing caricatures, was one of Benton’s most vocal adversaries. Even so, their art intersected in many ways. Painted in 1930, Jefferson Market depicts the public space and surrounding structures along Sixth Avenue between 10th and Christopher Streets, only two blocks south of the New School’s headquarters. Davis compressed symbols of urban infrastructure into spatially complex, collage-like painting. The looming shadow of a taller skyscraper in the background portends New York’s continual urban transformation, a theme that Benton engaged in the City Building panel of America Today.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in NYC.