The problematic past in the work of Charles Sheeler, 1917-1927

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article examines the place of the past in Charles Sheeler's photographs and paintings made in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, around 1917, in New York City during the 1920s, and in the short film of New York, Manhatta (1921), which he made with the photographer Paul Strand. It situates these works in the context of the scholarship on Sheeler and on the art of New York in the early twentieth century, in particular that of the Ashcan School and of visual representation which attends to the architectural fabric of the city in preference to depicting its inhabitants. The article argues that although the scholarship has identified Sheeler's interest in making connections with the American past, it has not recognized the fraught nature of that relationship. By looking at the Doylestown and New York pictures, the analysis demonstrates how the problematic status of the past for Sheeler appears in these works as hauntings and absences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-580
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of American Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

Cite this