Charles Sheeler (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1883–1965 Dobbs Ferry, New York)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.3 x 20.2 cm (9 15/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Mount: 36.6 x 29.9 cm (14 7/16 x 11 3/4 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Anonymous Gift and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Not on view
After the initial success of his photographs in the art world , Charles Sheeler for a time exhibited his photographs with his paintings, indicating his belief that his work in each medium shared the same status. In 1923 he reviewed an exhibition of Stieglitz's photographs, criticizing his former mentor's use of platinum paper. The article caused a rift between the two men, following which Sheeler's photographic work became more visible in commercial than in art circles. His most important commercial commission was for the Ford Motor Company in 1927. At the River Rouge plant he produced images that focused on industry as the most significant expression of the modern age, almost as a form of lay religion. Sometime during the following year, Sheeler was presumably commissioned to photograph the S.S. Majestic, though the exact details of the commission remain unclear. Three of the photographs have survived, yet none seems to have been published. Like the River Rouge photographs, the image seen here celebrates the machine--in this case an ocean liner, referred to as "a machine for living" by the French architect Le Corbusier in his book "Toward a New Architecture" (1923). Sheeler did not display his subject in its entirety; instead, he focused on the ship's motors, ventilator stacks, and exhaust fans--symbols of its mechanical power. In general he sought to reveal underlying abstract structure, even in pictures realistically conceived; and indeed, this image is at once abstract and highly realistic. The vantage point accentuates the geometry and repetition of the forms, reducing this floating wonder to a few crisply lit, carefully composed, precisely observed details. A year later, Sheeler would use the photograph as the basis for a painting of the same name.
Inscription: illegible inscriptions in pencil on mount, recto BR; Stamped verso, C: "PHOTOGRAPH // BY // CHARLES SHEELER // NEW YORK"
Richard Pratt (former editor of "Seven Seas"); [Marlborough Gallery]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, September 22, 1976
Whitney Museum of American Art. "Photography Rediscovered: American Photographs, 1900-1930," September 19, 1979–November 25, 1979.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Photography Rediscovered: American Photographs, 1900-1930," December 22, 1979–February 4, 1980.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "From the Gilman Collection: Photographs Preserved in Ink," November 15, 1984–February 26, 1985.
Palais de Tokyo, Paris. "Procédés, Procédés," October 7, 1987–November 30, 1987.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
Carrousel du Louvre, Paris. "Constructed Views: Photography and Architecture," November 19, 1998–November 23, 1998.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "The Photography of Charles Sheeler," October 23, 2002–February 2, 2003.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Photography of Charles Sheeler," June 3, 2003–August 17, 2003.
Fotomuseum Winterthur. "The Photography of Charles Sheeler," September 5, 2003–November 2, 2003.
Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt. "The Photography of Charles Sheeler," February 4, 2004–April 11, 2004.
Detroit Institute of Arts. "The Photography of Charles Sheeler," September 8, 2004–December 5, 2004.
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. "The Photography of Charles Sheeler," January 14, 2005–May 1, 2005.
Travis, David. Photography Rediscovered: American Photographs, 1900–1930. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1979. pl. 136.
Rosenblum, Naomi. A World History of Photography. 1st ed. New York: Abbeville Press, 1984. pl. 525.
Apraxine, Pierre. Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. Reeds Springs, Mo.: White Oak Press, 1985. pl. 178.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. p. 360.