Bucks County Barns

a chapter of the exhibition catalogue

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

by Karen Lucic



40. David Park Curry describes how, since the 1970s, folklorists have challenged the modernists' invention of folk progenitors. Those trained in material culture study tend to look at folk artifacts not. as precursors of modernism but as documents of individual makers: "Objects once automatically admired for their impersonal, abstract qualities are now seen as palimpsests that might lead us straight to the artists who made them." "Rose-Colored Glasses: Looking for 'Good Design' in American Folk Art," in An American Sampler: Folk Art from the Shelburne Museum (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1987), 26.

41. Eleanore Price Mather and Dorothy Canning Miller, Edward Hicks: His Peaceable Kingdom and Other Paintings (Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 1983),60,156-57,178; and Henry D. Paxson,Jr., "Edward Hicks and His Paintings," Bucks County Historical Society Papers 6 (1930): 1-5.

42. Alan Trachtenberg first suggested this possibility to me.

43. Reproduced in Troyen and Hirshler, Charles Sheeler, 13.

44. John Driscoll, "Charles Sheeler's Early Work: Five Rediscovered Paintings," The Art Bulletin 62 (March 1980): 130. Also, the Barber Collection of Pennsylvania German ceramics went on view at the Pennsylvania Museum during the first year that the artist studied at the School of Industrial Art, the museum's teaching institution.

45. Hilton Kramer, exhibition review, New York Times, 7 May 1966, p. 27, in Downtown Gallery Papers, AAA, Roll 1843, frame 44.

46. For a detailed account, see Beatrix T. Rumford, "Uncommon Art of the Common People: A Review of Trends in the Collecting and Exhibiting of American Folk Art," in Perspectives on American Folk Art, ed. Ian M. G. Quimby and Scott Swank (New York: W.W. Norton, 1980),13-53. This history was first assembled in Wanda Corn's M.A. thesis, "Return of the Native: The Development of Interest in American Primitive Painting" (New York University, 1965). My thanks to her for allowing me to read this unpublished paper.

47. This exhibition was staged by the Penguin Club, New York, which was in existence from 1916 to about 1919. Its moving spirit was Walt Kuhn, and its members also included John Quinn, Wood Gaylor,Jules Pascin, Louis Bouche, Albert Gleizes, Elie Nadelman, Abraham Walkowitz, Max Weber, and William Zorach. Yasuo Kuniyoshi[?], unsigned typescript, Kuniyoshi Papers, AAA, Roll N670, frame 20.

48. The painting, probably Manchester Valley, was rejected but received three votes from Robert Henri, William Lathrop, and Robert Spencer. Holger Cahill, American Folk Art: The Art of the Common Man in America, 1750-1900 (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1932),33. In subsequent years, Pickett was often cast in the role of the American equivalent of Henri Rousseau. See Holger Cahill, American Primitives: An Exhibit of the Paintings of Nineteenth-Century Folk Artists (Newark, N.J.: Newark Museum, 1930), 64.

49.Judith E. Stein, "An American Original," in I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1993), 5 ff.

50. Avis Berman, Rebels on Eighth Street: Juliana Force and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York: Atheneum, 1990),198-201; Troyen and Hirshler, Charles Sheeler, 14. Beginning in 1927, Sheeler rented a house in South Salem, New York, apparently with the help of Peggy Bacon and Alexander Brook, two artists closely associated with the Club. The cottage was on the property of Bacon's mother, a well-to-do collector of Americana. Alexander Brook to Mrs. C. R. Bacon, undated, Peggy Bacon Papers, AAA, Roll 895, frame 309. Sheeler gave Brook at least two drawings of Bucks County subjects, one in the Pisano/Baker Collection and the other at the Columbus Museum of Art.

51. Although Force reestablished a home in the region at the same time as Sheeler set up residence there, no evidence exists of their acquaintance until about 1920, when they probably met in New York. But as with Sheeler's first encounter with Mercer, when the two did meet, they most likely shared an immediate rapport because of their common love of Bucks County traditions. See Berman, Rebels on Eighth Street, 106-07, 145-48.

52. This story, according to Lloyd Goodrich, originated with Force herself. But I have failed to find a convincing correspondence between any of Sheeler's Bucks County barns and the buildings at Barley Sheaf Farm. Information contained in the above two paragraphs was generously provided to me by Carl Rieser, Force's nephew; Avis Berman; and Don Mills, subsequent owner of the Barley Sheaf Farm, in interviews I conducted in March and April 1984. See also Berman, Rebels on Eighth Street, 198-99.

53. See Virgil Barker, "Notes on Exhibitions," The Arts 5 (March 1924): 161-65.

54. Whitney Studio Club, Early American Art (New York, 1924), unpaged. Sheeler also took the photographs of the works of art reproduced in the catalogue, including the previously mentioned Whittier's Home.

55. Margaret Breuning, "Early American Art Makes an Interesting Exhibition," Evening Post, 16 February 1924, in H. E. Schnakenberg Papers, AAA, Roll 851, frame 928.

56. Helen Appleton Read, "Introducing the Cigar Store Indian into Art," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 17 February 1924, in ibid., frame 926.

57. Barker, "Notes on Exhibitions," 161.

58. Rourke, Charles Sheeler, 87-88.

59. See Troyen and Hirshler, Charles Sheeler, 98. Other Bucks County subjects followed; they are landscapes showing groups of buildings from a distance. These include Bucks County Barns, 1924 (Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute), and two works in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Landscape, 1925, and Landscape, 1925.

60. Helen Appleton Read, "Annual Exhibition of Whitney Studio Club," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 11 May 1924, sec. b, p. 2, in archival file, "Whitney Studio Club and American Art, 1900-1932," Library, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

61. Robert Allerton Parker, "The Classical Vision of Charles Sheeler," International Studio 84 (May 1926): 71.

62. An interesting parallel exists in the use of this term during the 1920s with a concept vital to "Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern" at the Museum of Modern Art in 1984. The organizers of that exhibition also took pains to distinguish modernist innovators from mere "imitators" of tribal art.

63. Autobiographical notes, Sheeler Papers, AAA, Nsh 1, frames 122-23. Compare Rourke, Charles Sheeler, 183-84.

64. Autobiographical notes, Sheeler Papers, AAA, Roll 1811, frame 873.

65. Quoted in Rourke, Charles Sheeler, 130.

66. Ibid., 182.

67. Compare Baigell, "American Art and National Identity," 48 ff.

68. Sheeler interview by Friedman, AAA, Tape 1, p. 24.

69. Stewart, "Charles Sheeler, William Carlos Williams, and Precisionism," 103-06.

70. William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain (New York: New Directions Books, 1956; first published 1925),213.



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