|Grandeur, dignity, and power: these words expressed by Joseph Pennell in his essay “The Wonder of Work” justly describe the Greek temples and modern industrial scenes comprising the exhibition “Joseph Pennell: Temples to the Gods, Temples to Industry.” “The Wonder of Work” pays tribute to Rembrandt’s mills and dykes, Claude Lorrain’s commercial harbors, Constantin Meunier’s workmen and nearly everything by Whistler, concluding with a panegyric to Pennell’s beloved New York City. He believed the greatest artists were those who were inspired by the forms of their present day surroundings and were able to depict them accurately and meaningfully. In his own time, the wonders of modern industry provided a subject worthy of depiction and capable of transmitting his vision of work’s inherent majesty.|
Pennell went to Greece in 1913 to compare his modern industrial wonders to marvels of the ancient world. The result was the commanding “Land of the Temples,” a series comprised of 40 lithographs containing rich and layered implications of meaning. Placed side by side with Pennell’s industrial ‘temples’, the works evoke similarities between the glory and splendor of ancient Greece and Rome and modern industrial nations.