Aaron Harry Gorson, Industrial Scene, Pittsburgh, 1928
Aaron Harry Gorson (1872-1933) was a Lithuanian-American painter. He immigrated to Philadelphia in 1888. He worked in a factory to fund his art career and began taking classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He began to have some success and he made enough money selling portraits to study in Paris for a year. He studied at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts. While in Paris, he saw the great strides made by Impressionism, which had a significant impact on him. When he returned to the United States in 1901 he settled in Pittsburgh and painted the industrial scenes of the city. Even after he moved to New York City in 1921, the factories of Pittsburgh, as well as his own time working in a factory, continued to hold sway over his work. He repeatedly painted similar scenes of factories at work over water. Not unlike Monet's urban landscapes, Gorson paints these scenes, not as hazardous and threatening, but as beautiful and exciting. The intense bursts of light and smokes almost look like supernatural events. The painting I have chosen to feature has a fascinating mix of scenic elements. The fire of the factory rises behind a pale street or walkway, which stands unaffected by the pollution. The sky and water, meanwhile, are filled and colored by the smoke and fire. Gorson also includes a bridge and a glimpse of the city, lit by electric lights, in the distance, which shows the whole system at work. It also makes the factory look like an outpost of the city, a billowing marvel that must be traversed to reach Pittsburgh. Although Gorson does not depict the factories negatively, there is a certain sublime awe in the face of raging industry that hints at its overwhelming power.