Otto Kuhler “Pretty Boy Dam Under Construction.”


Otto Kuhler.  “Pretty Boy Dam Under Construction.”  1932. 10 1/4 x 8 1/4.  Etching.  Signed in pencil.  Old mat burn.  Else, very good condition.

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Although best known for his industrial designs, Otto Kuhler (1894- 1977) is well regarded as a fine artist and draftsman.  Born in Germany, Kuhler was the sole heir to his family’s successful steel business, Kuhler Forges.  After WWI however, the business and his family’s fortune were in ruins. After living briefly in Dusseldorf, and partly due to the advice of friend Joseph Pennell, he took up etching and emigrated to the States in 1923.  Otto Kuhler’s etchings of begrimed industry sprang from the same optimistic response to technology that led to his colorful streamlined designs for the Milwaukee, Lehigh and other railroads in the 1930’s. His prints bridge art and industry  freely-sketched scenes that celebrate precise engineering and industrial might.  This merging of industry and art proved so successful that after years of submitting designs, a locomotive based on Kuhler’s designs was built.  The engine, Hiawatha, rolled out of the Schenectady, New York yard in May, 1935. It was the first streamlined steam locomotive to be built from scratch in America.  This signaled the start of the next phase of his career–as a successful industrial designer.

This image shows the workers building the Safe Harbor Dam in Columbia, Pennsylvania.