Please wait

Elsie Driggs




Elsie Driggs (1895-1992)






Oil on canvas


Overall: 34 1/4 × 40 1/4 in. (87 × 102.2 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Accession number


Object Label

Pittsburgh was inspired by a view from a train window that Elsie Driggs saw as a child, riding past the city’s steel mills at night. Years later, remembering how the spewing smokestacks tinted the nocturnal sky with sulfurous hues, she returned to Pittsburgh to make studies for a painting. She discovered, however, that the production of steel had changed over the years and the mill was using a new process that no longer discharged smoke into the sky. She sketched the buildings anyway and returned to her studio to paint Pittsburgh with a palette of greys. Driggs exhibited the painting in New York, where her gallery declared it an exemplar of a “new classicism,” and she herself called Pittsburgh her "Piero della Francesca" in honor of the fifteenth-century painter, who inspired her with his "desire for structure and order, simplicity and strength." Pittsburgh may be a devotional image for a twentieth-century faith, but the monolithic gray smokestacks rising above the haze seem inescapably dark and menacing, suggesting that Driggs may have been questioning America’s newfound faith in technology.

Related exhibitions online

Prev Next