Suspended Power


Charles Sheeler ( American, 1883 - 1965 )

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General Description

Suspended Power depicts a water turbine being lowered into place at a new hydroelectric power dam in Guntersville, Alabama. In 1938 Fortune magazine commissioned Charles Sheeler to produce a group of paintings on the theme of power. Over the next two years, he created a series of photographs and paintings exploring the varieties of industrial, mechanical, and natural power in the United States. In addition to this representation of American engineering prowess, the subjects shown in the series include the exterior of the Hoover Dam, an airplane, a steam power plant, a train, and a waterwheel (representing earlier methods of harnessing power). Suspended Power, along with the five other paintings, appeared in Fortune in December 1939.

This painting is one of the few in the Power series to have a recognizable photographic prototype. Not content to merely replicate the photograph, however, the artist combined two different perspectives in the final oil painting, as well as reducing the number of figures in the scene and significantly cleaning up the industrial interior.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 264.

  • William Keyse Rudolph, DMA label text, 2005

Fun Facts

  • Charles Sheeler was considered a great photographer and often photographed the subjects of his paintings as studies for the works.

Web Resources

  • Charles Sheeler, Biography
    Read a biography of Charles Sheller on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

  • YouTube
    View the short film Manhatta: A Film by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler presented by the Getty Museum.

  • YouTube
    Learn more about Charles Sheeler's photographic work in this video by Ted Forbes and The Art of Photography.