Cement Dust, c. 1945, oil on canvas, 25 x 22 inches, signed lower right and verso, titled verso, exhibited at 1) The Buffalo Fine Arts Society – Albright Art Gallery, Annual Exhibition of Buffalo Artists of Western New York (price $150) (label verso); 2) Buffalo Society of Artists – 50th Annual Exhibition, March 31 to April 8, 1945, at the Hotel Statler (price $100) (label verso); and 3) the Westchester Arts & Crafts Society (label verso); original frame
About the Painting
Writing about the years between the World Wars, the American precisionist painter Charles Sheeler, observed, “Every age manifests itself by some external evidence. In a period such as ours when only a comparatively few individuals seem to be given to religion, some form other than the Gothic cathedral must be found. Industry concerns the greatest numbers-it may be true, as has been said, that our factories are our substitute for religious expression.” In Cement Dust, William Harold Mann, presents us with one of these new American cathedrals in the form of an imposing cement factory. The structure fills the entire expanse of the canvas and Mann’s liberal use of white in the roof of the factory recalls traditional notions of purity and goodness. The image of a factory as a place of reverence and a force for good likely took on a special meaning in the last year of World War II, when Mann painted Cement Dust. The industrial output of the United States was a key factor in the Allied victory. In a very real sense, factories were seen as a source of salvation, not unlike European Gothic cathedrals centuries before.
About the Artist
William Harold Mann was a regionalist artist. He was born and spent the bulk of his career in Buffalo, New York. After initially working as an actor and theater producer, Mann settled into a life as a commercial and fine artist, primarily working for advertising agencies. He was a member of various arts organizations in western New York where he showed his work, including at the Albright Art Gallery (now The Albright-Knox). Mann’s work explores the local Buffalo scene and the surrounding environment. He is listed in Mallett’s Index of Artists (1948 supplement).