Study for "The Well," ca. 1916
Morton Schamberg (American, 18811918)
Pencil on paper; 5 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (19.1 x 11.4 cm)
Purchase, Bertram F. and Susie Brummer Foundation, Inc. Gift, 1968 (68.115.1)
This pencil drawing, one of Schamberg's numerous works depicting machinery, is a highly finished study for his Painting VII (The Well) (1916; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University). At the University of Pennsylvania, in his native Philadelphia, Schamberg had studied architectural draftsmanship, including mechanical drawing; this education gave him the ability to look closely at an industrial apparatus and the skill to transfer its workings to paper or canvas. He may also have been inspired by the machine imagery of Marcel Duchamp and other artists of the Dada movement. As in most of his works in this genre, Schamberg isolated one segment of a machine against a neutral background, in order to emphasize the abstract pattern of its parts. This centralized composition is comprised of the shaft and vat of an automatic mixing machine, which would have been used for blending large quantities of dyes, paints, or chemicals. This drawing was originally owned by his friend Charles Sheeler, with whom Schamberg shared a studio as well as an interest in such sharply delineated portrayals of modern technology.