Michener Art Museum Casts New Light on Charles Sheeler and His 1920s Fashion Photography

Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), Helen Menken, Vanity Fair, October 1, 1931. © Condé Nast.

Painter and photographer Charles Sheeler is best known as one of the founding figures of American modernism. Audiences may be surprised to learn that Sheeler’s aesthetic vision was influenced by his experience working as a commercial photographer at Condé Nast, where he created fashion portraits for Vanity Fair and Vogue. This unknown body of work has never been publicly displayed—until now.

From March 18 through July 9, 2017, the James A. Michener Art Museum will present Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form, an exhibition featuring 85 portraits and fashion photographs created between 1926 and 1931, on loan from the Condé Nast archives. “It was [at Condé Nast that Sheeler] fine-tuned his particular style—objective, distant, and rigorously formal—that he then applied to all of his subsequent work,” says Kirsten M. Jensen, Ph.D., the Gerry & Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator at the Michener and curator of the exhibition.

Evoking the character and energy of the Jazz Age, the exhibition will be complemented by prints from Sheeler’s “Doylestown House” series, early portraiture, and his photographs of modern sculpture, as well as period costumes. Textiles designed by Sheeler will also be on view, along with paintings and photographs on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others.

Accompanying the exhibition is a colorful, 256-page catalogue that includes essays illustrating how Sheeler’s work shifted contemporary trends in architecture and fashion, and highlighting the influence of his experimentation with filmmaking on his later works, and on future generations of fashion photographers. The publication is available for purchase at the Michener Museum and online ($49.95).

Exhibition programming will include lectures, curator talks, a “Scholars Day,” film screenings, musical performances, and a New York-based symposium. Visit the exhibition website to see the full schedule.>>

The new web-based publication In Terms of Performance provokes dialogue, debate, and discovery in an anthology of keywords designed to generate shared literacies.

Bruce Laverty of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia will lead a trolley tour that explores the lineage of the Philadelphia row home, from the 18th century to the present day.

Asian Arts Initiative’s project to revitalize Pearl Street, an under-used alley behind its building in Philadelphia’s Chinatown North neighborhood, is featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Grants & Grantees

This multidisciplinary chamber opera for mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and string quartet will focus on the experience of childhood and feature a mechanical, electronic sound-generating sculpture that will grow from a small music box into a seven-foot tall object as the performance unfolds, creating a riveting visual and musical experience.

Grants & Grantees

The Slought Foundation is a small and dynamic organization with great ambitions, founded in 2002 to present art projects and lectures from a storefront in University City.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Susan Bernofsky is an author and German-language literature translator. She directs the literary translation program in the School of the Arts MFA Writing Program at Columbia University.

The Happy Show, presented at the Institute of Contemporary Art, focused on Stefan Sagmeister’s 10-year exploration of happiness and was conceived as a series of interactive investigations on the subject.

Following closely on the heels of revolutionary events in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya in 2011, Marginal Utility’s exhibition explored the topic of protest through the work of five artists.

Grants & Grantees

From its beginning in 1815 as the nation’s first major urban water supply system to its role today as an environmental education and outreach center, the Fund for the Water Works has been an innovator in clean water and environmental health.

Grants & Grantees

Michael Hurwitz is a visual artist and a 1999 Pew Fellow.

In a video produced by the Guardian, Tacita Dean describes her epic search for Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, the core of her quest to complete her film, JG.

Visiting scholar and performance curator Kristy Edmunds describes how she approaches risk in the context of her curatorial work.