Charles Sheeler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Charles Sheeler
Charles Sheeler.jpg
Charles Sheeler standing next to a window. c. 1910.
Born(1883-07-16)July 16, 1883
DiedMay 7, 1965(1965-05-07) (aged 81)
Known forModern art, Photography
MovementPrecisionism, American Modernism

Charles Sheeler (July 16, 1883 – May 7, 1965) was an American painter and commercial photographer. He is recognized as one of the founders of American modernism, developing a "quasi-photographic" style of painting known as Precisionism and becoming one of the master photographers of the 20th century.

Early life and career[edit]

Charles Rettew Sheeler Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art from 1900 to 1903, and then the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under William Merritt Chase. He found early success as a painter and exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908.[1] Most of his education was in drawing and other applied arts. He went to Italy with other students, where he was intrigued by the Italian painters of the Middle Ages, such as Giotto and Piero della Francesca. Later, he was inspired by works of Cubist artists like Picasso and Braque[2] after a trip to Paris in 1909, when the popularity of the style 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 five dollar Brownie. Early in his career, he was dramatically impacted by the death of his close friend Morton Livingston Schamberg in the influenza epidemic of 1918.[3] Schamberg's painting had focused heavily on machinery and technology,[4] a theme which would come to feature prominently in Sheeler's own work.

Sheeler owned a farmhouse in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, about 39 miles outside Philadelphia, which he shared with Schamberg until the latter's death. 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 itself serves a prominent role in many of his photographs, which include shots of the bedroom, kitchen, and stairway. At one point he was quoted as calling it his "cloister." His work was also part of the painting event in the art competition at the 1932 Summer Olympics.[5]

On April 2, 1939, Sheeler married Musya Metas Sokolova his second wife, six years after the death in 1933 of first wife Katharine Baird Shaffer (married April 7, 1921). In 1942 Sheeler joined the Met museum as a senior research fellow in photography, worked on a project in Connecticut with the photographer Edward Weston, and moved with Musya to Irvington-on-Hudson, some twenty miles north of New York. Sheeler worked for the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Publications from 1942 to 1945, photographing artworks and historical objects.[6]

Sheeler painted using a technique that complemented his photography and has been described as "quasi-photographic".[7] 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.

Photography and film work[edit]

Films created by Charles Sheeler[edit]

Photographic works[edit]

Selected paintings[edit]

Early works[edit]

Still Life (1925), one of Sheeler's earlier works, and one of several of his still life paintings.

Power series[edit]

In 1940, Fortune Magazine published a series of six paintings 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) [1].

Later works[edit]

The monument of Charles Sheeler (and Musya) in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery



^ "Power: A portfolio by Charles Sheeler", Fortune magazine (December 1940) Time Inc., Volume XXII, Number 6


  1. ^ Borland, Jennifer. Finding Aid to the Charles Sheeler Papers, circa 1840s-1966, bulk 1923-1965. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  2. ^ Murphy, Jessica (2000). ""Charles Sheeler (1883–1965)"". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  3. ^ Grace Glueck review of Morton Schamberg, NY Times, 1982 Retrieved August 11, 2010
  4. ^ Pohald, Mark (October 2007). "Charles Sheeler: Across The Media". Exhibit Review. Chicago.Art Institute.
  5. ^ "Charles Sheeler Jr". Olympedia. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  6. ^ Warren, Lynne, ed. (2006), Encyclopedia of twentieth-century photography, New York Routledge, p. 1418, ISBN 978-0-203-94338-0
  7. ^ [Styles, schools and movements, published by Thames & Hudson 2002 Amy Dempsey]
  8. ^ a b c d e Roberts, Norma J., ed. (1988), The American Collections, Columbus Museum of Art, p. 198, ISBN 0-8109-1811-0.
  9. ^ "NGA – Charles Sheeler: Across Media (5/2006)". National Gallery of Art. Archived from the original on May 9, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  10. ^ "The Photography of Charles Sheeler". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011.

Other links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]