I’ve been reminded that I bought this gorgeous book about the work of the American artist, Charles Sheeler:
Sheeler, born in Philadelphia in 1883, was one of the leading artists in the modern movement in America in the 1920s and his works explored the changing landscape that industrialisation was creating. Where Sheeler differs from other artists of the time is in the fact that portrayed this in both painting and photography.
He once said:
Photography is nature seen from the eyes outward, painting from the eyes inward. Photography records inalterable the single image while painting records a plurality of images willfully directed by the artist. 1937
This can be seen if we compare the painting, Stacks in Celebration with this photograph:
Sheeler visited Italy during his student days and was greatly influence by artists such as Giotto and Piero Della Francesco. This can be seen in the flattening of the chimney stacks against the wedges of light in the background. Sheeler’s ability to ‘clean-up’ the lines make his work so pleasing to view.
Sheeler looked to show how the mechanisation of industry could be as beautiful as the natural landscape. His canvases lack human interaction which adds a sense of isolation to the image but, the warm tones of the palette prevents them from becoming melancholic, as seen in these two works, Steam Turbine and Water.
His photographic work also brought with it a dramatic view of the way the cities were also changing:
This essay gives more detail on this exceptional artist: