History And Context
Lee Gatch painted Industrial Night in 1948 at the height of his career. The scene is of a nighttime view of the Pennsylvania shore from New Jersey, most likely painted from Lambertville, New Jersey, Gatch’s hometown on the Delaware River. The painting demonstrates Gatch's ability to transform a mundane vista through decorative pattern and luminous color. Twenty-five years previous to painting this, Gatch was a student of John Sloan, who taught Gatch the importance of design within the scope of fine painting.
Gatch manipulated patches of luminous color in Industrial Night to create a decorative surface while simultaneously generating a sense of depth by juxtaposing bright oranges and yellows in the foreground against receding blue tones. The illusion of space and movement is reinforced by the diagonals of the bridge which rapidly draw the viewer's eye to the opposite shore. Duncan Phillips emphasized this sensation in his description of the painting: "Driving with him over elliptical curves, along gleaming tracks, through an Industrial Night of sapphire and gold, azure and vermilion, we are asked to note by the way the crescent moon in the pale water, but more particularly to observe those curves in contrast to the vertical and pyramidal lines of oil wells on the dark shore and the diagonals of the drawbridge to which all curves lead." Gatch created the frame himself using wooden yardsticks pieced together to create a mosaic effect.