Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) is recognized as one of the founders of American modernism and one of the master photographers of the twentieth century. His work is synonymous with precisionism, a crisp, clean, hard-edged style that reconciled cubist abstraction and the machine aesthetic of Marcel Duchamp with American subject matter. Trained in industrial drawing, decorative painting, and applied art at the School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia, Sheeler also attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he learned an impressionistic, painterly style. He later embraced European modernism and taught himself photography. Sheeler fully absorbed the lessons of each discipline and forged his own singular approach.
This beautifully illustrated book, created to accompany a traveling exhibition of Sheeler’s work, features detailed analyses of the artist’s mediums and working methods. Focusing on the complex, often paradoxical, relationships among photography, film, drawing, printmaking, and painting that were central to Sheeler’s art, this pathbreaking book traces critical points in Sheeler’s trajectory, beginning with a small selection of Sheeler’s seminal photographs, circa 1917, of the interior of an eighteenth-century Quaker fieldstone house in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Sections are also devoted to the 1920 film Manhatta, made in collaboration with Paul Strand; a series of commercial photographs of the Ford Motor Company’s River Rogue factory (1927); the enigmatic painting The Artist Looks at Nature (1943) and its related works; and finally a group of mill subjects from the 1940s and 1950s that experiments with photomontage.
Copub: National Gallery of Art
Lenders to the Exhibition
Across Media: Surveying the Boundaries of Art
Photography: Doylestown Interiors, 1917
Film: Manhatta and the Cityscape, 1920
Commercial Photography: The River Rogue Factory, 1927
Mixing Media: The Artist Looks at Nature, 1943
Photomontage: New England Irrelevancies, 1946
Appendix: Commercial Photography for Condé Nast
Charles Brock is Assistant Curator of American and British paintings at the National Gallery of Art.
“An illuminating critical essay on the American modernist. . . . An intellectual portrait of a resolute modernist driven by a 19th-century philosophy of beauty, who found parallel structures in factories, skyscrapers, Quaker architecture an Shaker furniture, and who saw no ultimate difference between paintings, photographs, drawings and films as vehicles of beauty.”—Art & Auction