Charles Sheeler

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Charles Sheeler
Charles Sheeler.jpg
Charles Sheeler standing next to a window. c. 1910.
Born (1883-07-16)July 16, 1883
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died May 7, 1965(1965-05-07) (aged 81)
Dobbs Ferry, New York
Nationality American
Known for Modern art, Photography
Movement Precisionism, 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 and one of the master photographers of the 20th century.

Early life and career[edit]

Charles Rettrew 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 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] In 1909, he went to Paris, just when the popularity of Cubism was skyrocketing as he was inspired by works of Cubist artists like Picasso and Braque.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. When starting out, he was dramatically impacted by the death of his close friend named Schamberg who paints great machine paintings that portrays technology in a great light.[3] He became to admire the technology. His first use of technology was photography in order to support himself as a painter, making him self-taught in the medium. His work made him prominent in describing human progress with modern technology iconic.

Sheeler owned a farmhouse in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, about 39 miles outside Philadelphia. He shared it with his longtime friend the artist Morton Schamberg (1881–1918), who died in the influenza epidemic of 1918.[4] 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 and stairway. 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.

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 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. ^ Pohald, Mark (October 2007). "Charles Sheeler: Across The Media". Exhibit Review. Chicago.Art Institute. 
  4. ^ Grace Glueck review of Morton Schamberg, NY Times, 1982 Retrieved August 11, 2010
  5. ^ a b c d e Roberts, Norma J., ed. (1988), The American Collections, Columbus Museum of Art, p. 198, ISBN 0-8109-1811-0 .
  6. ^ "NGA – Charles Sheeler: Across Media (5/2006)". National Gallery of Art. Archived from the original on May 9, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011. 
  7. ^ "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]

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