Media Resource

Picturing America: Sheeler & Wright

Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1935-1939
Photo caption

Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1935-1939

The tension between the natural and the artificial threads through art in many mediums and periods. Charles Sheeler, a professional photographer, created precise landscape paintings that defy traditional expectations: rather than untouched vistas, his work celebrates the triumph of U.S. industry and the changes wrought on the land in its wake. In Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, on the other hand, inhabitants are situated on top of the waterfall, looking out over pristine nature.

View the video (6 minutes) from Picturing America.

Access the Picturing America lesson plans for Sheeler and Wright.

Classroom Connections

Comprehension Questions

  • How are Falling Water and "American Landscape" "cathedrals"?
  • How do Sheeler's photographs and paintings converse with each other?
  • How did humans' relationship to nature change over the course of the 19th century?
  • What aspects of Falling Water shape the way viewers/inhabitants relate to nature?

Discussion Questions

These guiding questions can spark discussion and debate about the ideas raised by these works of art and architecture.

  • How is the relationship between human and nature portrayed in Sheeler and Wright's works? What techniques do these men use to shape the viewer's relationship to the environment?
  • How do both Wright and Sheeler invert expectations with their respective works?

EDSITEment Resources

The following EDSITEment resources provide ways to explore the themes of nature, industry, and environment in more detail.

  • Explore Fallingwater in more detail with this Closer Readings Commentary: Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.
  • Nature and the environment have long exerted a powerful influence on writers and artists. Lessons about Jack London (there are several, see here and here as well), John Steinbeck, and Stephen Crane offer forays into literature's representation of and relationship to the natural world (grades 9-12).
  • Learn about the impacts of railroad construction on rural life, indigenous people, and the environment in this lesson plan: The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad (grades 6-8).
  • Finally, this Closer Readings Commentary explores the history of the National Park and suggests resources to incorporate place-based teaching and learning into the classroom.