Charles Sheeler (July 16, 1883 – May 7, 1965) is recognized as one of the
founders of American modernism and one of the master photographers of the 20th
century.Charles Sheeler (July 16, 1883 – May 7, 1965) is recognized as one of
the founders of American modernism and one of the master photographers of the
Self-portrait at Easel, 1932, by Charles Sheeler
Charles Sheeler (July 16, 1883 – May 7, 1965) is recognized as one
of the founders of American modernism and one of the master photographers of
the 20th century.
Born in Philadelphia, he first studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine
Arts. In 1909 he went to Paris, just when the popularity of Cubism was
skyrocketing. Returning to the United States, he realized that he would not be
able to make a living with Modernist painting. Instead, he took up commercial
photography, focusing particularly on architectural subjects. He was a
self-taught photographer, learning his trade on a $5 Brownie.
Sheeler owned a farmhouse in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, about 39 miles outside
of Philadelphia. He shared it with artist Morton Schamberg. He was so fond of
the home's 19th century stove that he called it his "companion" and made it a
subject of his photographs. The farmhouse serves a prominent role in many of
his photographs, including shots of the bedroom and kitchen. At one point he
was quoted as calling it "my cloister."
Sheeler painted using a technique that complemented his photography. He was a
self-proclaimed Precisionist, a term that emphasized the linear precision he
employed in his depictions. As in his photographic works, his subjects were
generally material things such as machinery and structures. He was hired by
the Ford Motor Co. to photograph and make paintings of their factories!
1920 Manhattan with Paul Strand
1917 Doylestown House: Stairs from Below (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
1927 Criss-Crossed Conveyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)
1920 Church Street El, (Cleveland Museum of Art).
1925 Still Life.
1925 Lady of the Sixties, (Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA).
1929 Upper Deck, (Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA).
1930 American Landscape (Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY).
1931 Americana (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY).
1931 Classic Landscape, (Mr and Mrs Barney A Ebsworth Foundation).
1931 View of New York, (Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA).
1932 Interior with Stove, (National Gallery, Washington, D.C.).
1933 River Rouge Plant (Whitney Museum, New York, NY).
1934 American Interior, (Yale University Gallery, New Haven, CT).
1936 City Interior (Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA).
Amoskeag Canal 1948, by Charles Sheeler
In 1940, Fortune Magazine published a series of six paintings of
commissioned of Sheeler. To prepare for the series, Sheeler spent a year
traveling and taking photographs. Fortune editors aimed to “reflect life
through forms…[that] trace the firm pattern of the human mind” and Sheeler
chose six subjects to fulfill this theme: a water wheel (Primitive Power), a
steam turbine (Steam Turbine), the railroad (Rolling Power), a hydroelectric
turbine (Suspended Power), an airplane (Yankee Clipper) and a dam
(Conversation: Sky and Earth)
1939 Conversation: Sky and Earth, (Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis, MN).
1939 Primitive Power, (The Regis Collection, Minneapolis, MN).
1939 (Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA).
1939 Steam Turbine, (Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH).
1939 Suspended Power, (Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX).
1939 Yankee Clipper, (Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI).
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