1928 & 1929: A Confident Vision

Sheeler’s assignments for Vanity Fair and Vogue remained steady throughout 1927, but late in the year he began to receive other commissions—most significantly for the Ford Motor Company, photographing the new manufacturing plant at River Rouge outside Detroit, an assignment secured through the Philadelphia-based advertising giant N.W. Ayer. Those jobs, in addition to the fact that he was painting again by 1929, steadily diverted his attention away from magazine work.

Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), Bobbe Arnst, Vanity Fair, July 1928, gelatin silver print. (c) Conde Nast.

Even though his attentions were diverted elsewhere, nearly every photograph Sheeler made from 1928 emanates a finely-tuned approach as well as a maturity and confidence in the work he was doing: Peggy Fish in a broadtail coat and Reboux hat; Elinor Sherwin, sleek and streamlined, all velvet and glittering silk. At this point, Sheeler had his own studio with a remarkable black and white parquet floor, the rhythmic geometry of which became a prominent feature in stunning portraits of Frances Williams and Bobbe Arnst. Even the fashion photographs Sheeler made in publisher Condé Nast’s apartment radiate a surety of design and technique that had been absent in 1926 and early 1927: Muriel Finley, an exquisitely cool mannequin draped in a white velvet wrap with sable cuffs; Elizabeth Shevlin in Chanel, her geometric silk scarf a perfect foil to Nast’s floral wallpaper; and the young and utterly modern socialite, Priscilla Choate, striking an insouciant and androgynous pose.

Share your email here for up-to-date alerts about events and news related to the exhibition
Newsletter Signup