Clarence Carter was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, and showed his work in the Annual Exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art while he was still in his teens. He graduated from the Cleveland School of Art in 1927, painted for a summer with Hans Hofmann in Capri, and then spent a year traveling and studying in Europe. Between 1938 and 1944 he was an assistant professor of art and design at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, and his work appeared in several national exhibitions.
Carter's constantly changing style has made him a difficult painter to categorize. His landscape, portrait, still-life, and genre paintings have appeared in exhibitions of Magic Realist, Surrealist, Regionalist, Symbolist, and Social Realist art. His most important contribution was probably as a painter of the American scene during the 1930s and 1940s. True to Regionalist aesthetics, many of Carter's paintings from this period were of ordinary subjects in believable settings and landscapes. War Bride is an eerie, surreal exception: a young bride, her back to the viewer, faces an aisle leading not to an altar but to a huge steel press. The dramatic incongruity is heightened by the contrast of bridal white with the harsh reds and greens of the machinery.
This disturbing vision was inspired by a dream Carter had after visiting a steel mill: "The mills were going full blast and it made a great impact upon us. That night I dreamed I painted a picture that was very vivid in my mind.... Some of the girls in my senior painting classes were getting married before the boys would be leaving to go into the coming war. This got mixed into my dream painting of the steel mill which became the sanctuary."
War Bride's striking composition, which juxtaposes human frailty and the machine's implacability, makes it one of Carter's strongest works.