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Forging the Shaft

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By Kendall J from The Crucible & Column,cross-posted by MetaBlog

John-Ferguson-Weir-xx-Forging-the-Shaft-1874.jpgMy wife and I were in New York City last weekend for a shopping and sightseeing trip before the holidays. We stayed in Midtown just south of Central Park. On Sunday, we got a chance to spend some time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With only a couple of hours to spend, we both peeled off and headed for our respective favorites; she for Asian and Egyptian, and I for 19th century European and American.

Except for Greek and Roman sculpture, the 19th century has most of the gems of painting and sculpture. It is too bad however that Kant's influence in philosophy can be seen making its way into late 19th century. This decay included choice of subject, and so it is a tragedy that just as the Industrial Revolution was occurring, that art was turning its back on so wonderful a subject.

My find for the day was this painting which I stumbled upon by accident in the American wing. It is "Forging the Shaft" by John Ferguson Weir ca. 1868. A larger version can be found over on the Met's website or Pursuing Praxis blog (which has a nice overview of the American wing - I like an idiot left my camera at the hotel).

This was not the most prominently displayed painting, and frankly I walked by it the first time. With little time I was scanning galleries quickly and seeking out only paintings that quickly caught my eye. This one from a distance is smaller and, since the color palate is very dark, it didn't catch my eye.

However, once I saw it up close, I was blown away. It is exceedingly difficult to find industry as the subject of paintings of the era, and much less to find one so well executed. There are two aspects to this painting that I found fantastic. One is the rendering of light, using the furnace and the metal ingot as the only source of light. The second is the depiction of effort and tension (i.e. of work) on the part of the laborers.

This was by far my favorite. I sat and looked at this painting for over 15 minutes.

When I returned home, I realized that he has several paintings using similar themes, including "The Gun Foundry" and "Tapping the Furnace".

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