The new structures created by the industrial revolution were immediately of interest to artists, who memorialized these new activities
as well as the buildings that sprang up to house them.
No doubt the owners of these new activities – the “capitalists” – were proud to have them memorialized, much as in previous centuries landowners had been proud to have their country seats memorialized.
The industrial buildings got bigger and more complex, but still their owners wanted artists to memorialize their factories.
But I suppose at some point artists just wanted to show the factories the way they really were.
And they tried using the new painting techniques of the 20th Century to capture the industrial reality they saw around them.
From the 1960s onward, artists who painted industry seem to have focused almost exclusively on recording the passing of the coal industry, which had underpinned the whole industrial revolution in the UK and was now entering its death spiral.
By 2007, the date of the last painting I show here, the British coal industry was effectively dead, along with much of the manufacturing industry which had powered itself with that coal.
A line from William Blake’s poem Jerusalem has given me the title of both this post and the previous one. Blake asks if Jesus ever walked over England’s green and pleasant land. When Blake wrote that poem, England mostly was still a green and pleasant land, a rural land. It was only slightly pockmarked by the “dark satanic mills” of industry which he mentions in that poem (“And was Jerusalem builded here / Among these dark Satanic Mills?”). Blake died in 1827, before – as the paintings in these two posts show – the blighting ugliness of industrial development had really started disfiguring the land. In my next post, I will explore artists’ fascination with the most satanic of those industrial mills.