Amoskeag Canal, 1948
oil on canvas
22 1/8 in. x 24 1/8 in.
Much has been made of Sheeler’s “hard-edged” treatment of industrial subjects – a characterization that may be apt for this painting with its meticulous linework and striking geometries. When the artist visited Manchester at the Currier’s invitation to portray a subject of his choosing, the Amoskeag Mills had been shuttered for over a decade. Visitors frequently comment on the stillness of this scene. The lack of people and greenery, coupled with the insistent patterning, have caused some to go further, perceiving an airless environment.
One of the things that I really like about this painting is that complexity and questions emerge upon close looking. The windows have more differences than at first is apparent. Lines jostle across the weave of the canvas. The artist’s hand is everywhere, if provokingly withheld. What kind of space is this – plunging and turning, or resolutely flat in the focus on facades? There may be machine cool here, but what do the lavender windows do to the emotional temperature?