The Doylestown House

a chapter of the exhibition catalogue

"Charles Sheeler in Doylestown: American Modernism and the Pennsylvania Tradition"

by Karen Lucic



38. Found in an envelope identified in Sheeler's hand as "Doylestown House," these photographs were printed from 2 1/4. x.3 3/8 inch negatives. One exterior view of the house exists only in the form of a negative in the Lane Collection, the repository of photographs from Sheeler's estate; no corresponding print is known to exist. The original project may have been more extensive. For other prints not illustrated here, see Stebbins and Keyes, Charles Sheeler, figs. 15,17, cats. 10 and 18. I extend sincere thanks to Karen Quinn for information about Sheeler's negatives.

39. Charles Millard proposes that the Doylestown house series was produced over several years from 1914 to 1917. He pinpoints 1914 as the beginning of the series because Stairwell was published in the catalogue of Sheeler's retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1939 with that date. Millard presumes that the museum staff consulted Sheeler as to details about dating. But Millard also notes that Sheeler's own copy of the photograph has a later date -- 1915 -- inscribed on the back. Millard, "Charles Sheeler: American Photographer," Contemporary Photographer 6 (1967): unpaged. My research indicates that Sheeler's memories of his early career were often hazy and approximate, and are therefore unreliable without some external evidence for confirmation.

40. Stebbins and Keyes, Charles Sheeler, 8-9. 41. Sheeler to Stieglitz, 22 November 1917, BRBML.

42. Ibid.

43. Sheeler responded with elation to a letter from Stieglitz expressing appreciation for the Doylestown images. In his reply, Sheeler proposes a swap of their works -- several of Sheeler's photographs of the house for one by Stieglitz. Sheeler to Stieglitz, 2 December 1917, BRBML. Undoubtedly, the photographs that Sheeler gave Stieglitz eventually came to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; four vintage Doylestown prints are included in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection now housed there. Sheeler may have in the end received more than one photograph as a result of his trade with Stieglitz. In 1942, he gave four platinum prints by Stieglitz to the Museum of Modern Art. "Photography-New Acquisitions," The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art 9 (February 1942): 12. All dating from 1914-15, these were works probably given to the artist by Stieglitz.

44. See "Modernist Photographs," American Art News 16 (15 December 1917): 3.

45. Stebbins and Keyes, Charles Sheeler, 9.

46. Weston J. Naef, The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz: Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978), 438.

47. Therefore I am never surprised to find the image inverted in publications, even in such authoritative texts as Milton Brown, and others, American Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Decorative Arts, Photography (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1979), fig. 415.

48. This is especially true in Sheeler's later printings from the original negatives, such as the ones owned by the Museum of Modern Art and the George Eastman House.

49. For an expanded discussion of the Doylestown photographs' psychological implications, see Karen Lucic, "On the Threshold: Charles Sheeler's Early Photographs," Prospects 20 (1995): 227-55.

50. Sheeler wrote, "Among other qualities peculiar to it, photography has the capacity for accounting for things seen in the visual world with an exactitude for differences which no other medium can approximate." Autobiographical notes,AAA, Roll Nsh 1, frame 66.

51. Wall label, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn. For a more detailed comparison of Sheeler and Nutting, see Karen Lucic, "The Present and the Past in the Work of Charles Sheeler" (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1989). 105-09. See also Barendsen, "Wallace Nutting, an American Tastemaker;' and Marianne Berger Woods, "Viewing Colonial America through the Lens of Wallace Nutting," American Art 8 (Spring 1994): 67-86.

52. Sheeler to Arensberg. [c.1918]. AA.

53. See Carol Troyen, "The Open Window and the Empty Chair: Charles Sheeler's View of New York," American Art Journal 18 (1986): 24-41, and Lucic, "On the Threshold," 246-7.

54. A similar interpretation of Sheeler's Doylestown imagery appears in Fillin- Yeh, Charles Sheeler, 12.

55. Charles Sheeler, statement in Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters (New York: Anderson Galleries. 1916), unpaged.

56. Rourke, Charles Sheeler, 86.

57. Marius de Zayas asked Sheeler to provide photographs of African objects for a book he published, African Negro Wood Sculpture, early in 1918. See Stebbins and Keyes, Charles Sheeler, 4-6. The image Rourke mentioned was reproduced in the biography and presumably resulted from de Zayas and Sheeler's collaboration.

58. Rourke to Sheeler, 1 March 1937, Sheeler Papers, AAA, Roll 1811, frame 115. In another letter, she teased the artist: "I think maybe after the page proof is all finished I'll slide in the observation that you are a mystic." Rourke to Sheeler. 21 January 193[8], ibid., frame 169.

59. Sheeler to William Macbeth, 26 September 1910, quoted in Garnett McCoy, "Charles Sheeler: Some Early Documents and a Reminiscence." Journal of the Archives of American Art 2 (April 1965): 2.

60. Quoted in Rosenblum, "Paul Strand," 67; cited in Stebbins and Keyes, Charles Sheeler, 10.

61. Rosenblum, "Paul Strand," 55-57;William Innes Homer, Alfred Stieglitz and the American Avant-Garde (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1977), 247-49.

62. Stebbins and Keyes, Charles Sheeler, 10.

63. See Troyen and Hirshler, Charles Sheeler, cat. 5, for an example.

64. Even Strand did not continue to experiment with a high degree of abstract picturemaking. He returned to more representational photographs shortly after the brief experimental phase that produced Abstraction, Porch Shadows, Connecticut. For the usable past in American art, see Wanda Corn, In the American Grain: The Billboard Poetics of Charles Demuth (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College. 1991); Matthew Baigell, "American Art and National Identity," 48-55; and Rubin, "A Convergence of Vision."

65. Quoted in Rourke, Charles Sheeler, 144.

66. Sheeler to Stieglitz, 13 November 1922, BRBML.

67. Sheeler interview by Friedman, AAA, Tape 2, pp. 17-18.

68. "There were too many memories of those exciting creative summers.. . working together and discovering, during long hikes, the Pennsylvania German countryside and architecture." Wolf, Morton Schamberg, 22.

69. Sheeler interview by Friedman, AAA, Tape 2, pp. 3-4.


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