Aesthetics Wiki

Precisionism was an art movement that emerged in the United States during the aftermath of World War I, focusing on modernistic values and industrialization, the industrial world and its urban landscapes. It flourished from the decade of the 1920s to the early 1930s.

Although especially influenced by European art movements such as Purism, Orphic Cubism and Italian Futurism (particularly Aeropittura), it had its own characteristics exclusive to the situation of the United States, such as fascination with industrialism in the landscape of the American countryside. It was meant to be an art movement with an uniquely American cultural identity[1], and some artists working on this aesthetic were discontent to acknowledge its European influence.

Those who participated in this art movement are collectively called the Precisionists, and earlier they were more known as Immaculates, although they were never an united or formal distinctive group of artists. Instead, they were classified with each other through common styles and art techniques[2]. Although a few Precisionists were friends with each other, most of them were unrelated and they never published a collective manifesto to declare the ideas or philosophy of the movement. However, the general ideology aligns with Modernism.


It's hard to tell who really coined the term "Precisionism". The most widely accepted interpretation states that it was coined in 1927 by Alfred H. Barr, the former director of the Museum of Modern Art, in Manhattan, New York City. According to the art historian Amy Dempsey, it was actually first coined by Charles Sheeler, a painter notable for his Precisionist artworks. For the most part, Precisionist art doesn't really have a shared history, because the painters never had an unified formal program[3]. Therefore, it's safe to say that Precisionism was simply coined by art critics for the purpose of classifying artworks in museums and art galleries by style. The earliest examples of what was later labelled Precisionism can be traced back to the late 1910s.

Although most Precisionist artists didn't personally know each other, some of them who did exhibited their works together during the 1920s, especially in the Daniel Gallery of New York City. Precisionism had an indirect impact on its successor Pop Art, especially with Demuth's painting titled I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928).



"Shape Shadows" by Charles Green Shaw. (1934). This artwork uses a minimal and simplified composition.

The visuals of Precisionism primarily focused on industrialization and the urban landscapes of the United States. The Preciosionists liked to experiment with elements such as skyscrapers, skylines, industrial bridges and factories to convey modernity in their artworks. They also used flat planes and geometric compositions, and started incorporating ideas and art techniques that would be popular later on in aesthetics that emerged after World War II, such as reducing details to a graphic form and simplifying art to show the world in a reduced and minimal form[4], somewhat being a precursor to Minimalism. The art tends to depict the places portrayed as desolated, with no kind of human figures anywhere to be seen. Some works may also resemble Liminal Spaces.



  • Charles Demuth
  • Charles Sheeler
  • Edmund Lewandowski
  • Edward Hopper
  • Elsie Driggs
  • Francis Criss
  • George Ault
  • Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Harold Joe Waldrum
  • John Register
  • Joseph Stella
  • Louis Lozowick
  • Miklos Suba
  • Morton Livingston Schamberg
  • Niles Spencer
  • O. Louis Guglielmi
  • Paul Strand
  • Peter Blume
  • Preston Dickinson
  • Ralston Crawford
  • Sanford Ross
  • Stuart Davis

Video Games[]

  • Team Fortress 2 (mainly seen in the game's early art style)