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 Charles R. Sheeler  (1883 - 1965)

/ SHEE-ler/
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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/New York      Known for: precisionist painting-architecture, landscape, interiors

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Ad Code: 1
Charles R Sheeler
from Auction House Records.
Stacks in Procession
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Philadelphia, Charles Sheeler created paintings, a few lithographs, and photographs that reflected his aesthetic interest in industrial scenes of the early 20th-century American landscape.  He became the major exponent of Precisionism, a style of painting that emphasizes clean-cut lines, simple forms and large areas of flat color---creating a sense of order and 'precision', and a suggestion that the lines of those industrial structures cut through people lives psychologically.

Sheeler was born in Philadelphia and studied there at the School of Industrial Art, from 1900/01 to 1901/02.  He was awarded Certificate A in Industrial Drawing in 1901, and Certificate B in Decorative Painting and Applied Art in 1902.  He then studied with William Merritt Chase at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1903 to 1906. 

He made several trips to Europe, several times traveling with Chase, and from 1908 to 1910 with Morton Schamberg.  On this trip, his interest in modern art, especially Fauvism, was awakened.  He spent the next decade trying to shake-off the more representational style of Chase, who became so irritated with his former student's rebellion that he quit speaking to him.

In 1917, Sheeler's signature work began with the exhibiting of a painting, Barn Abstraction.  Striving for precision and simplification, he was much influenced by Shaker artifacts and by his interest in commercial photography that had begun in 1912.  His mature paintings are abstractions of facades with details isolated in space.  He also pioneered in using sharp-focus techniques in response to the parallel precisionist movement in photography.

In the 1930s, the objects in his paintings were more realistic but more abstract in arrangement, and in the 1940s, his work showed disembodied planes and forms suggesting industrial shapes.

Much influenced by Paul Cezanne and Cubism, Sheeler was very much a part of the early-20th century New York avant-garde art world that included Charles Demuth, Joseph Stella, and Louis Lozowick.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, he focused on American and not European subjects.

He died in Dobbs Ferry, New York in 1965.

Sources include:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk (editor), Who Was Who in American Art
additional information from the Archives of the University of the Art, commencement programs and annual reports, submitted by Sara MacDonald, Public Services Librarian

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Charles Sheeler is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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