The Open Door

Artist: Charles Sheeler (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1883–1965 Dobbs Ferry, New York)

Date: 1932

Medium: Conté crayon on paper, mounted on cardboard

Dimensions: 23 3/4 x 18 in. (60.3 x 45.7 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, Bequest of Edith Abrahamson Lowenthal, 1991

Accession Number: 1992.24.7


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.”