Charles Sheeler (artist)|
American, 1883 - 1965
Doylestown House--The Stove, 1917
gelatin silver print
overall: 23.7 x 17 cm (9 5/16 x 6 11/16 in.)
Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund
Object 9 of 15
In 1917 the painter Charles Sheeler created his first—and arguably his most important—series of photographs. In these works he forcefully demonstrated the lessons he had learned from European modern art, especially its emphasis on flat abstract patterning, fragmentation of form, and spatial ambiguity, and he boldly applied them to the medium of photography. Working at night and using a harsh artificial light that cast strong shadows and revealed few details, he created daringly modernist compositions. In addition, as he made clear in his titles which identify where the photographs were taken, he showed how these European ideas about art could be applied to distinctly American subject matter.
Although Sheeler was deeply attached to the simple eighteenth-century house in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he lived, it was its nineteenth-century stove with which he most identified. He even referred to it as his "companion." Situated in the center of this photograph, the gracefully defined structure has obliterated the more traditional source of heat for the room—the fireplace only barely visible to the left—and radiates what Sheeler described as a "welcome warmth." Like Sheeler himself, the stove was a transplant from another era; it was a new object that had found a space and function in an older environment. In this way Sheeler sought to demonstrate how twentieth-century American art and life could draw strength and sustenance from the nation´s cultural history.
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