Harmonizing the Machine in the Garden

September 1930

August 1934

January 1935

April 1938

May 1939

The beauty of the pastoral landscape lived in the aesthetic conscious of America. Yet as the industrial revolution engaged more and more of the country, a new aesthetic was necessary. The two forces in conflict, agrarianism and industrialism, needed a new representation and harmony in art. Artists were charged with creating beautiful works of the technology sweeping the nation. At first unsure of their ability to beautify the machine, artists turned to the incorporation of the machine into the pastoral, melding the new technology and the old ideas of style to create an industrial pastoral.

A chronological view of the Fortune covers involving landscape, as pictured above, portray this slow evolution of aesthetic appeal. Starting with the already familiar wedding of technology with the landscape, the thresher sweeping through the wheat field is reminiscent of George Inness' train commission. Still the focus of the work, the pasture is laden with the golden wealth harvested by the machine.

As the years progress, the covers start to displace the accent on agrarian. Within the covers, the machine take a more central view. Scenes of industrial activity replace the farmer in his field: the entire plant as opposed to the entire river. Beauty comes from the destruction of the pastoral landscape, from the industrial logging. Next the angle changes. The train takes the foreground of the image, as opposed to the first train cover where it remains in the background. The focus remains with the train moving through the structured orchard, not with the farmer driving through the same orchard.

In the next cover, this distancing is furthered by the view from an airplane, displacing the purpose of the land, and stressing the possibilities of the machine offering the view. Observe the network of roads and planned fields displayed in this cover, another change with industrialism.

In the final cover, the distancing of the farmer from the land becomes a focus on the machine. The machine takes over the aestheticized field, obscuring the agrarian focus from the country. Other covers from the time period on display accentuate this shift of focus. Instead of the pastoral, the part becomes central to the artwork.

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