Precisionism Art Movement

Precisionism Art Movement

Precisionism was one of the first native artistic movements in the United States, and it contributed to the rise of Modernism in the United States early on. The Precisionist style, which rose to prominence after World War I and peaked in popularity in the 1920s and early 1930s, commemorated the early American scene of skyscrapers, bridges, and industrial facilities in a form known as "Cubist-Realism."

The phrase "Precisionism" was first conceived in the mid-1920s, presumably by Museum of Modern Art director Alfred H. Barr, although Amy Dempsey claims that Charles Sheeler invented the phrase. Artists who worked in this genre were also known as "Immaculates," a term that was more widely used at the time.


What is Precisionism as an art form?

Precisionism is a continuous, strongly defined painting style popularized by many American artists in the 1920s for representational paintings.

The Precisionists, unlike other artists associated with the latter movements, did not issue manifestos and did not have a standardized process.

What are the distinguishing characteristics of Precisionist art?

Precisionist art is distinguished by its clarity of technique and subject, with quintessential subject areas including equipment, manufacturing relics, architectural style, industrial production, and mass-produced objects, as well as building structures.


Who was the first to create Precisionism art?

Charles Sheeler

When did Precisionism become a form of art?

The 1920s

Precisionism's Beginnings

Precisionism arose following World War I and peaked in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1927, the American architectural photographer Charles Sheeler was hired to photograph the Ford Motor Company's new manufactural center in Dearborn, Michigan, which was constructed along the Rouge River.

In the 1910s, Sheeler traveled to Europe and became acquainted with Cubism and other modern architecture movements.

After taking photographs of the Ford plant, he decided to return to the specific topic of paintings that merged Cubist motifs with components associated with Futurism and Photorealism.

Precisionism was born out of Sheeler's strong and accurate view of the modern world, and he was joined by like-minded colleagues like Charles Demuth. Cubism's fragmentation, photography's innovative use of lighting and framing, Synchronism's color harmony, and Futurism's fondness of modernism were all synthesized by Precisionism which emphasized geometric form while also honoring science and industry as essential aspects of American culture.

Precisionism Artists

  • Charles Sheeler
  • Charles Demuth¬†
  • Georgia O'Keeffe
  • George Ault
  • Joseph Stella
  • Ralston Crawford
  • Morton Schamberg
  • Stuart Davis
  • Niles Spencer


Characteristics of Precisionist

Precisionist art has the following characteristics: specificity of the subject; typical subjects include machinery, manufacturing objects, architecture, industrial production, and factory-made objects.

Precisionists used modern creativity to depict their industrial American landscapes. Artists were able to share with the world a forthright and idealistic perspective of the emergence of this new era in American culture and art by their eagerness to use solid color contrast to highlight figures.

Precisionism has been referred to as "cool art" because it created an impartial separation between the piece of artwork and the viewer.

Precisionist artists were linked by a "cool" level of disassociation in which the original artist delivered their work using a fusion of smooth brushwork and geometric accuracy. There was no need for extraneous elaboration in these artists' depictions of modern America.

The omission of human subjects in Precisionist works has been interpreted by experts as a critique of the new age's dehumanizing effects. Precisionism, on the other hand, was widely regarded as a celebration of America's technological and scientific prowess. Precisionism was not a mass movement at the time, but rather one that valued a close relationship between new material and modern style above all else. 

Precisionists specialized in urban topics. However, artists such as George Ault, Sanford Ross, and even Sheeler painted starkly geometric stables, farm fields, cottages, country roads, and country houses using the same precisionist approach.


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