Carl Hoeckner was born into a family of printmakers in 1883. He received his art education both at home and at academies in Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin, Munich and Brussels. In 1910 he emigrated to the United States from Germany and settled in the Chicago area. He taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and worked as a commercial artist.
Hoeckner depicted the ravages of war, shocking viewers with his bleak imagery. He later turned to industrial subjects as social commentary. He used steel as a metaphor for the social forces at work during both war and peacetime.