New York Art Scene

Marius de Zayas (1880-1961), The accidental cubists / drawn by De Zayas. With Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp by Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn. New York: Published by Puck Publishing Corporation, 295-309 Lafayette Street, May 9, 1914. Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

Marius de Zayas (1880-1961), The accidental cubists / drawn by De Zayas. With Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp by Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn. New York: Published by Puck Publishing Corporation, 295-309 Lafayette Street, May 9, 1914. Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

Marius de Zayas (1880–1961)
Marius de Zayas was a Mexican artist and gallery owner also known for his efforts in bringing modern European art to the New York art scene. After moving to New York in the early 1910s, de Zayas found himself immersed in the city’s art scene. He connected with Stieglitz, who exhibited de Zayas’ work in his gallery, and traveled to Europe on behalf of the photographer to research the modern art movement happening there. In 1915, de Zayas opened his own gallery called the Modern Gallery. Sheeler worked for de Zayas at the Gallery and exhibited quite a number of paintings there during the late 1910s.

Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968)
Born in France, Marcel Duchamp was a naturalized American painter, sculptor, and writer considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His rejection of purely visual art and exploration of context influenced his unique style. Duchamp coined the term “readymade,” taking everyday objects out of context and presenting them as art. One of his most recognizable readymades is Fountain, a porcelain urinal, considered scandalous and questionable art piece at the time. Sheeler was familiarizing himself with the New York art scene when Duchamp immigrated to the city, readymades in tow.

“Marcel, of course, was in a class by himself.”… “Some of the fancy things that he used to make, that is, fancy in the sense of imagining, bore no relation to anything that anyone had ever seen before, individual parts, a ball of string and something else totally irrelevant combined with it in an arrangement.”

Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Night Shadows, 1921, etching. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Night Shadows, 1921, etching. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Edward Hopper (1882–1967)
Edward Hopper was a notable realist painter focused on stark, exact renderings of manmade and natural surroundings. One of Hopper’s most recognizable works is Nighthawks (1942). Hopper was an avid moviegoer and critics have noted the resemblance of his paintings to film stills. Nighthawks (1942) and such works as Night Shadows (1921) anticipate the look of film noir, whose development Hopper may have influenced. Sheeler and Hopper were both considered to be precisionists, which drew from industrial landscapes and featured the sharp, definitive lines both artists convey.

John Marin (1870–1953)
John Marin was a modernist abstract landscape artist and watercolorist. Like Sheeler, Marin attended PAFA and was entranced by the modern artists in Europe. Marin ran with the same New York circle as Sheeler, growing close with photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. Stieglitz was a staunch supporter of Marin, frequently showcasing his work in galleries and helping to fund his artistic pursuits.

Francis Picabia (1879-1953), Prostitution Universelle (Universal Prostitution), 1916-17, Black ink, tempera, and metallic paint on cardboard. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Francis Picabia (1879–1953), Prostitution Universelle (Universal Prostitution), 1916-17, Black ink, tempera, and metallic paint on cardboard. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Francis Picabia (1879–1953)
Francis Picabia was a French artist who helped bring modern art to New York in the 1910s and 1920s. He quickly associated himself with the social circle of the city, connecting with Duchamp and Stieglitz soon after his move in 1915. He was one of the key figures of the Dada movement and known for his colorful, comical, and scandalous abstract works. Sheeler met Picabia at Walter Arensberg’s home in the mid-1910s among many other French artists visiting the city at the time.

“Picabia and Marcel were, I would say, the two high spots among the artists in there.”
—Charles Sheeler
Morton Schamberg (1881 – 1918), Painting (formerly Machine), 1916, oil on canvas. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Morton Schamberg (1881–1918), Painting (formerly Machine), 1916, oil on canvas. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Morton Livingston Schamberg (1881–1918)
Morton Schamberg was a modernist painter, portrait photographer, and close friend to Sheeler. He, along with Sheeler, is known for his early adoption of Cubism, participation in Dada, and later influence in Precisionism. Schamberg and Sheeler met while studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). They traveled through Europe, rented an apartment in Philadelphia, and retreated to a home in Doylestown to work on their crafts—both in painting and photography.

Louis Lozowick (1892-1973), City Shapes, 1922-1923, oil on composition board with canvas textured surface. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Louis Lozowick (1892–1973), City Shapes, 1922–1923, oil on composition board with canvas textured surface. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Louis Lozowick (1892–1973)
Louis Lozowick was a Ukranian-born painter and printmaker known for his contributions to American art and the depiction of urban landscape during the early 20th century. Lozowick moved to the United States to attend school at the National Academy of Design. He lived and traveled throughout Europe early on in his career but maintained a strong connection with the New York art scene. He drew inspiration from multiple artistic styles he observed in his travels, including the precisionist aesthetic espoused by Sheeler. By the mid-1920s, Lozowick began working in lithography, producing streamlined prints that would shift the trajectory of his career.

William Carlos Williams (1883–1963)
William Carlos Williams was a poet whose work was closely tied to imagism, a movement inspired by Ezra Pound that rejected the romantic ideal and sought after accurate, detailed descriptions of visual imagery. Sheeler met Williams in the late 1910s. In 1939, Sheeler was featured in a retrospective exhibition of paintings, drawings, and photos at the Museum of Modern Art and Williams wrote for  his exhibition catalog. The two maintained a close friendship over the decades and used each other’s art as a way to better understand modernism.

Edward Steichen (1879–1973)
Edward Steichen was a notable photographer, painter, and curator during the 1920s and 1930s. During this time, Steichen worked as the director of photography for Condé Nast, producing celebrity and fashion photographs for Vogue and Vanity Fair. Steichen met Alfred Stieglitz while passing through New York in 1900 and the connection quickly turned into a thriving business partnership. Together, they opened Gallery 291, which exhibited artistic photography as well as modern European art. Sheeler met Steichen in the early 1920s and was lured by the photographer in 1926 to work for Condé Nast as well. Sheeler continued as a photographer for Condé Nast until 1931.

Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946)
Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer and modern art promoter during the early 20th century known for his efforts to recognize photography as an acknowledged art form. Stieglitz was heavily influenced by European art, having lived in Germany for much of his formative years. He played a fundamental role in bringing modern European art to the New York art scene. He and photographer Edward Steichen created Gallery 291 which showcased artistic photography and modern European art. Stieglitz was deliberate in his craft, choosing composition, natural elements, and materials carefully. Sheeler met Stieglitz after the famed 1913 Armory Show. Stieglitz admired Sheeler’s Doylestown House photos and encouraged him to become more involved in the New York art scene, connecting him with collectors, dealers, and galleries across the city.

Paul Strand (1890-1976), Wall Street, 1915, printed 1917. Platinum print. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Paul Strand (1890–1976), Wall Street, 1915, printed 1917. Platinum print. Image. Retrieved from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Paul Strand (1890–1976)
Paul Strand was a photographer and filmmaker who assisted Stieglitz in bringing photography into the art discourse early in the 20th century. While on a field trip to Stieglitz’s 291 gallery as a student, Strand was captivated by the abstract work of exhibiting artists. Strand would later exhibit his own photographs at 291. In addition to photography, Strand was an avid filmmaker. His first film was a collaboration with Sheeler called Manhatta (1921). The film depicted everyday New York through dramatic viewpoints in a cinematic stream of images.

Edward Weston (1886–1958)
Edward Weston was a notable photographer of the 20th century. Until the 1920s, his style was soft focus pictorialism—creating an image rather than recording it. However, after photographing the Armco steel mill in 1922, Weston renounced his former aesthetic and was drawn to cleaner, sharper lines. “The Middletown visit was something to remember…most of all in importance was my photographing of ‘Armco’…That day I made great photographs, even Stieglitz thought they were important!” Weston traveled to New York during this time and met Sheeler as well as Stieglitz. Sheeler and Weston shared similar styles and maintained a friendship throughout their artistic careers.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874–1948)
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller was a socialite and philanthropist of the early 20th Century. The wife of financier John D. Rockefeller, Abby was a prominent figure in the Rockefeller family. She amassed a large collection of modernist paintings. Sheeler sold his work to Aldrich Rockefeller in 1928, just one year before she founded the Museum of Modern Art—perhaps her most notable contribution to the art world.

Walter Conrad Arensberg (1878–1954)
Walter Conrad Arensberg and wife Louise were major art collectors during the early 20th Century. Among the artists they supported were modernists Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Charles Sheeler. The Arensbergs often entertained the French artists traveling through New York following the 1913 Armory Show. It was during one of these gatherings that Arensberg introduced Sheeler to Duchamp. Arensberg was particularly close with Duchamp, supporting his artist endeavors and collecting many of his works throughout his career.

Juliana Force (1876–1948)
Juliana Force was the director of the Whitney Museum of Art (initially known as the Whitney Studio Club). She organized art shows in New York City for Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, showcasing Whitney’s work as well as the work of artists whose work had been rejected by traditional outlets. These exhibitions led to the development of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1930, where Force was named director. Force had an eye for folk art, including work by many folk artists in the Studio Club’s exhibitions as well as in her own personal collection. Keeping ties to her hometown, Force filled her home at Barley Sheaf Farm in Doylestown with many pieces from her collection. In the early 1920s, Sheeler worked as a photographer for Whitney and lived in the apartment above the studio in Greenwich Village. He continued to display his work in solo and joint exhibitions at the Whitney throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

Charles Sheeler (1883–1965), Edith Gregor Halpert, c. 1940, gelatin silver print, 9 x 13 in. Downtown Gallery Records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Edith Halpert (1900–1970)
Edith Halpert was a modern art dealer and founder of the Downtown Gallery in New York City. After seeing Sheeler’s work, Halpert encouraged the artist to focus more of his energy on painting and included some of his works in her gallery. Soon after his show at the Downtown Gallery, Sheeler resigned from Condé Nast in 1931.

John Quinn (1870–1924)
John Quinn was a major supporter of the arts, collecting sculpture, fine art, and writings of the modern art movement. He also owned one of the largest collections of European paintings in the early 20th Century. Quinn spoke at the 1913 Armory show, saying that “it was time the American people had an opportunity to see and judge for themselves concerning the work of the Europeans who are creating a new art.” In the late 1910s, Quinn commissioned Sheeler to photograph his collection of African art.

Charles Sheeler (1883–1965), Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, negative date: about 1923, gelatin silver print, 25.4 x 20.3 cm (IO x 8 in.) © The Lane Collection. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875—1942)
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was an artist but perhaps best known for her contributions as an art collector and founder of the Whitney Museum of Art. Whitney was a member of the venerable Vanderbilt family and her interest in art was instilled early on. After her marriage to Harry Payne Whitney, Gertrude explored sculpture and devoted much of her time to studying the art form in New York and Paris. Formerly known as the Whitney Studio Club, the Whitney Museum of Art evolved out of traveling exhibitions showcasing her work as well as work by other modern artists—Sheeler included. In an attempt to make modern art more accessible, Gertrude offered to gift hundreds of her own works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her gift was rejected, inspiring Whitney to open a gallery of her own in 1930.

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