Charles Rettew Sheeler, Jr. (July 16, 1883 – May 7, 1965) was an American artist. He is recognized as one of the founders of American modernism and one of the master photographers of the 20th century.
"The ungainly name "Precisionism" was coined by the painter-photographer Charles Sheeler, mainly to denote what he himself did. It indicated both style and subject. In fact, the subject was the style: exact, hard, flat, big, industrial, and full of exchanges with photography. Photography fed into painting and vice versa. No expressive strokes of paint. Anything live or organic, like trees or people, was kept out. There was no such thing as a Precisionist pussycat. Sheeler’s work records the displacement of the Natural Sublime by the Industrial Sublime, but his real subject was the Managerial Sublime, a thoroughly American notion. And though Precisionism broadened into an American movement in the late twenties and early thirties, Sheeler’s work defined its essential scope and meaning.
(From "American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America", by Robert Hughes)
Tonight’s “Homage” is to honor a native-born Pennsylvanian artist and photographer, Charles Sheeler. In 1909, Sheeler went to Paris and later returned to his native Pennsylvania where he owned a farmhouse in Doylestown, Pa. about 39 miles outside Philadelphia. I believe that I’ve always known (early memories) about Sheeler’s art because of his roots here in Pennsylvania. Doylestown is about 70 miles from my home in Central, Pa. The unique balance he has between his photography and painting was a real plus in drawing me to his work. The photos and paintings seem to feed off of each other in a kind of symbiotic relationship. His subjects however presented me with a different kind of aesthetic. The works are precise and are usually industrial or mechanical themed and are cold detached, and mostly factual. That was a serious blow to my early “art is beautiful” aesthetic belief. I never found his works warm or inviting, but I liked them on their own terms. His work educated me to what other things art might be. I could appreciate the mechanical precision of the subjects and the technical prowess of his creative process. The works were, in spite of a new and unfamiliar aesthetic somehow always familiar to me, due to the face his chosen subjects were all around me in the towns and countryside where I lived and grew up. Here were the everyday realities of the industrial N.E. and to cover all the bases he included the farm country architecture that made up my everyday vision. Now many years later, as I travel around N.E. Pa. I take many photos of the same subjects he included in his art and I echo his work by the very nature of similar subject matter. As always I hope you will look at Sheeler’s paintings and photographs.