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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.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.
Self-portrait at Easel, 1932, by Charles Sheeler
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


 Photographic works

  • 1917 Doylestown House: Stairs from Below (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
  • 1927 Criss-Crossed Conveyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company (Metropolitan Museum of Art)




 Early Works

  • 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 Classic Landscape, (National Gallery, Washington, D.C.).
  • 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
Amoskeag Canal 1948, by Charles Sheeler


 Power series

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).


 Later works

  • 1940 Interior (National Gallery, Washington, D.C.).
  • 1940 Fugue, (Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA).
  • 1948 Amoskeag Canal, (Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH).
  • c.1952 Windows, (Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York, NY).
  • 1953 New England Irrelevancies, (Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA).
  • 1953 Ore Into Iron, (Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA).
  • 1954 Architectural Cadences Number 4
  • 1955 Golden Gate, (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY).
  • 1956 On a Shaker Theme, (Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA).
  • 1957 Red Against White, (Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA).
  • 1958 Composition Around Red, Pennsylvania (Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama)

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