• Photographs auction at Christies

    Sale 2304


    15 April 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 380

    CHARLES SHEELER (1883-1965)

    Bucks County Barn, 1918

    Price Realised  


    CHARLES SHEELER (1883-1965)
    Bucks County Barn, 1918
    gelatin silver print
    signed, titled and dated in ink (on the mat); credit, title and date in ink (on the overmat); annotated in an unknown hand 'Presented to Edith Arensberg by the Photographer Charles Sheeler 1918' in pencil (on the frame backing)
    7 3/8 by 9 3/8in. (19.2 x 25cm.)

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    Charles Sheeler applied the lessons of Cubism and Modernism to American vernacular subject matter and created a decidedly new American art form. Inspired by his encounters with Modern Art in Paris in 1909 and especially by Marcel Duchamp's work at the Armory Show in New York in 1913, Sheeler looked again with new eyes at the architecture in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania where he lived. Bucks County Barn, 1918 is one of the most striking images from this renewed search. He would later use it as the source for his 1932 painting Bucks County Barn which is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, a gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller only three years after its making. Sheeler denied wanting to 'transcribe' photographs into paintings but the work at MoMA is a very accurate rendering of the photograph. It demonstrates that he saw the work wholly formed with his view camera that day in 1918.

    Vintage mounted prints with the original overmat such as this one are very rare. The presence of the signature, title and date in Sheeler's hand on the mount (fig.1) and the overmat with the careful lettering on the face (fig.2) make this a very special object. As the print itself has been mounted to the board untrimmed, it proves that Sheeler himself took extra care to cut the window mat to crop the image precisely as he envisioned it while allowing us, by lifting the mat, to see what he chose to eliminate from the negative. This uncommon handling allows us the knowledge of his working methods usually only available to those who have access to the photographer's contacts or negatives.

    At the time of this writing, we know of only two other prints of this image. One was offered by Christie's New York, May 15, 1980, as lot 39. It is signed and not dated. There is a stamp on the reverse of the mount with the address of the studio Sheeler moved to in 1930, so it is presumably a later print. Another print of this image is in the Lane Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. That print is not dated. The Museum has assigned a circa 1915-1917 date to the image. The present lot however is signed and dated 1918 by Sheeler himself, the same year that he mounted, matted and gifted it to Edith Arensberg, sister of his friend and patron Walter Arensberg. It has remained in the family to the present, more than 90 years later.


    From the artist;
    to Edith Arensberg;
    by descent to the present owner


    Stebbins and Keyes, Charles Sheeler: The Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1987, fig. 20, p. 12; Lucic, Charles Sheeler in Doylestown, Allentown Art Museum, 1997, pl. 28, p. 77; Stebbins, Mora and Haas, The Photography of Charles Sheeler: American Modernist, Little, Brown and Co., 2002, p. 29