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Dudley Council
Dudley Skyline

Round Oak Steelworks from the canal off Level Street

Ray Jones, b.1932


Ray Jones - Acrylic on Paper

The dominant themes of this painting are industry and water – the canal which enabled raw materials to be brought in, and the industries like Round Oak Steelworks which then developed.

This is a packed composition, but the symmetry of the painting means that it feels detailed, not crowded. The light reflected in the water gives depth and beauty to the painting. The factory buildings are centrally placed, but the cool colours of grey, white and blue used here mean they do not dominate. On the left is the canal bridge, with beyond it houses and perhaps even a glimpse of the hills. But this is no rural idyll – apart from the scraping of green on the right, and the very distant hills, this is a completely man-made scene – busy and full of interest, despite there being no figures.

Smoke comes from the factory chimney, the water suggests movement, and colour and warmth are present in the yellow of the boat, and the sun-washed red brick of the canal side. Note the gantries in the background, and the sturdy lamp in the foreground, drawing the eye into the whole scene. No people are present, but evidence of their activity is everywhere in this striking and emblematic Black Country scene.