Setting Smoke Stack

Setting Smoke Stack

James E. Allen (b. 1884 - d. 1964)

Setting Smoke Stack

1933

etching

Knox College Art Collection

Allen was a prominent illustrator and printmaker best-known for his works depicting industrial life. This print, also titled Brazilian Builders, reflects a tendency to heroicize the image of the American male laborer during the New Deal era. Stressing their masculine strength in this dynamic construction scene, Allen’s print served as a hopeful symbol of American industrial power during the 1930s. Such images also restored a sense of agency and power to male workers, who felt threatened by the financial hardship of the Depression and loss of jobs. Allen was a skilled etcher and won juried prizes for this print. His choice of working in printmaking reflects the democratic ideals of New Deal visual culture. Prints were easily replicated and affordable, making these works accessible to common Americans, who yearned for optimistic depictions of American fortitude and economic recovery in the wake of the Depression.

Eric Dunevant