32¢ Charles Sheeler
Four Centuries of American Art
Issue Date: August 27, 1998
City: Santa Clara, CA
Printed By: Sennett Security Products
Printing Method: Photogravure
The paintings of Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) are characterized by precise, abstract representations of manmade forms. A photographer as well as a painter, Sheeler invented a style of intense realism for which he is best remembered.
Born in Philadelphia, Sheeler received his training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Six of his paintings were included in the Armory Show of 1913. To support his painting, Sheeler became a commercial photographer. By about 1917, however, he had come to view photography as a creative art form in its own right.
In 1920, Sheeler and fellow photographer Paul Strand made a short documentary film, Manhatta, which captured the modern energies of New York City. Some of Sheeler’s paintings, like Church Street El (1920) are based on still photographs taken from the film.
The Ford Motor Company hired Sheeler in 1927 to spend six weeks taking photographs of its River Rouge, Michigan plant. The images he took of the factory buildings are free of the human presence, except when needed to give a sense of scale. In his later work, such as Two Against the White (1957), Sheeler applied a purely photographic technique, that of the multiple exposure, to the painterly rendition of simple, functional structures.