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Charles Sheeler papers, circa 1840s-1966, bulk 1923-1965

Biographical Note

Painter, photographer, lithographer and designer, Charles Rettew Sheeler Jr. was born on July 16, 1883 to Mary Cunningham Sheeler and Charles Rettew Sheeler in Philadelphia. He attended the School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia from 1900-1903 and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied under William Merritt Chase. He found early success as a painter and exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908.
Around 1910 Sheeler took up photography, and by 1912 financially supported himself photographing buildings for local Philadelphia architects. The following year, Sheeler exhibited six paintings at the 1913 Armory Show in New York. In the mid 1910s, Sheeler began to collect American antiques, and by the 1920s was actively acquiring Shaker crafts and furniture.
In 1916, Sheeler was hired by Marius de Zayas of the Modern Gallery in New York to photograph objects and artwork. From 1917-1924, he worked as the staff photographer for the Modern Gallery and moved to New York in 1918. In 1920, Sheeler was hired as a still photographer for The Arts Magazine.
In 1926, Sheeler was hired by Edward Steichen to work as a fashion and celebrity photographer for Conde Nast Publications. His photographs were regularly featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair, but Sheeler also worked as a still life photographer for numerous advertising agencies. The following year, he was commissioned by the advertising firm N.W. Ayer and Son to photograph Ford Motor Company's new plant at River Rouge.
While working as a photographer, Sheeler continued to paint and used the subjects and composition of his photographs as a basis for his painting. His paintings Skyscrapers, 1922; Upper Deck, 1929; and American Landscape, 1930 are examples of Sheeler's technique of merging photographic imagery with painting and his overall precisionist style.
In 1931, upon the advice and guidance of Edith Halpert of the Downtown Gallery, Sheeler began to paint more often and to photograph less. Halpert became Sheeler's primarily dealer, and from 1931-1966 regularly exhibited his paintings and drawings. With Halpert's support, Sheeler produced Classic Landscape, 1931; American Interior, 1934; Silo, 1938; Amoskeag Canal, 1948; and Convolutions, 1952. In addition to Sheeler's partnership with Halpert, his work was exhibited by other galleries and museums throughout the United States and abroad.
In 1939, Sheeler married his second wife, Musya Metas Sokolova (1908-1981) and, in 1942, the couple moved to Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. Sheeler continued to paint and photograph until he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1959. After 1959, Sheeler remained active exhibiting his artwork until his death on May 7, 1965 in Dobbs Ferry, New York.