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“The Ironworkers’ Noontime” by Thomas Pollock Anshutz

Anschutz Thomas P The Ironworker-s Noontime

“The Ironworkers’ Noontime” by Thomas Pollock Anshutz

“The Ironworkers’ Noontime” by Thomas Pollock Anshutz depicts twenty-or-so workers on their break in the yard of a foundry. It was painted near Wheeling, West Virginia, and conceived in a naturalistic style featuring realistic anatomical depictions of men and boys.

The men are of all ages, some with naked torsos. The gray color pallet dominates for dirt on the ground, the industrial blast furnaces, and smoke. The rust and brown tones are used for ground waste, chimneys, brickwork, and the men’s clothing.

The skin tones of the men’s torsos pop out of the dark background—the men’s postures and poses echo the motions of the machinery inside the factory.

Anshutz composed this painting with the help of photographs and individual studies. Some of the figures are depicted in a classical pose, such as the man in the foreground rubbing his arm.

The composition appears to be an indictment of industrialization by portraying an industrial snapshot that was not picturesque. It was the first American paintings to depict the bleakness of factory life and its impacts on individuals.

When exhibited at the Philadelphia Sketch Club in 1881, its confrontational candor startled critics, who saw it as unexpectedly brutal. Anshutz depicted his subjects with the anatomical precision and unvarnished realism that he learned while studying life drawing.

The painting subjects of working-class life had become popular in the mid-19th century. However, it was unusual to show industrial scenes in 1880, as almost half of the American workers were farmers, and only about 15% of the working population worked in manufacturing.

“The Ironworkers’ Noontime” became Anshutz’s most well-known painting.

Thomas Pollock Anshutz

Thomas Pollock Anshutz (1851 – 1912) was an American painter and teacher. Known for his portraiture and genre scenes, he was also a director of drawing and painting classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Around 1880, Anshutz started to use the camera, posing models, and making prints for study. Anshutz participated in photographing nude models for study and modeled and posed outdoors nude, often wrestling, swimming, and boxing. 

The Ironworkers’ Noontime

  • Title:                The Ironworkers’ Noontime
  • Artist:              Thomas Pollock Anshutz
  • Year:                1880
  • Medium:          Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions      Height: 43.2 cm (17 in); Width: 60.6 cm (23.8 in)
  • Category:         American Artist
  • Museum:          de Young Museum

Thomas Pollock Anshutz

  • Name:              Thomas Pollock Anshutz
  • Born:                1851, Newport, Kentucky, United States
  • Died:                1912 (aged 60), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • Nationality:      American
  • Notable works:

Thomas Pollock Anshutz 

Highlights of the de Young Museum

Thomas Pollock Anshutz,  A collection of paintings

Tour of American Artists You Should Know

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“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
– American Proverb

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Photo Credit: Thomas Pollock Anshutz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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