Charles Sheeler (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1883–1965 Dobbs Ferry, New York)
Conté crayon on paper, mounted on cardboard
23 3/4 x 18 in. (60.3 x 45.7 cm)
Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, Bequest of Edith Abrahamson Lowenthal, 1991
Not on view
Sheeler was a versatile artist who moved easily between the media of painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, and film. For him, photography was not only a tool used to derive compositions for his paintings and drawings, but was also an independent art form that often preceded by several years his production of related paintings. In the case of The Open Door, drawn in 1932, Sheeler returned to a sequence of twelve photographs he had made about 1917 of his stone cottage in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The house, built in 1768 by a Quaker settler, was used by Sheeler and his artist-friend Morton Schamberg as a summer and weekend studio between 1910 and 1918, when Schamberg died, and thereafter by Sheeler alone until 1926.
As in the photograph upon which this drawing is closely based, Sheeler presents a small corner interior occupied by two open doors, a darkened window, and a small mirror. The strong, rectilinear character of the house, with its wide floorboards, thick ceiling beams, and plank doors, is emphasized in the tightly cropped scene. The exquisite range of tones and textures achieved solely with black conté crayon attests to Sheeler’s mastery of the medium, which, he noted, was used “to see how much exactitude I could attain.”
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Sheeler 1932
the artist, Ridgefield, Conn. and Irvington, N. Y. (1932–44; sold on October 14, 1944, through the Downtown Gallery, New York, to Lowenthal); Edith and Milton Lowenthal, New York (1944–his d. 1987); Edith Lowenthal, New York (1987–d. 1991; her bequest to MMA)
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Charles Sheeler: Paintings, Drawings, Photographs," October 2–November 1, 1939, no. 88 (lent by the Downtown Gallery, New York).
New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection," October 1–November 2, 1952, no. 95.
Minneapolis, Minn. Walker Art Center. "Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection," November 28, 1952–January 17, 1953, no. 95.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "American Art: The Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection. Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection," October 10, 1996–January 12, 1997, unnumbered cat. (p. 13; published in MMA Bulletin 54, summer 1996).
Cincinnati Art Museum. "Charles Sheeler in Doylestown: American Modernism and the Pennsylvania Tradition," December 19, 1997–March 1, 1998, no. 49.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Photography of Charles Sheeler," June 3–August 17, 2003, not in catalogue (unnumbered checklist for MMA venue).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "American Drawings, 1900–1950: Selections from the Permanent Collection," October 24, 2005–April 24, 2006, no catalogue.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Charles Sheeler: Across Media," May 7–August 27, 2006, no. 6.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Charles Sheeler: Across Media," October 7, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 6.
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. "Charles Sheeler: Across Media," February 10–May 6, 2007, no. 6.
Constance Rourke. Charles Sheeler: Artist in the American Tradition. New York, 1938, pp. 8, 159–60, ill. p. 138, locates it in the Downtown Gallery, New York.
Lisa Mintz Messinger. "American Art: The Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 54 (Summer 1996), pp. 7, 13, 52, ill.
Charles Brock. Charles Sheeler: Across Media. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D. C., 2006, pp. 30–32, no. 6, ill. (color) pp. 20, 39.