Charles Sheeler, “Criss-Crossed Converyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company”, 1927, Gelatin Silver Print, Metropolitan Museum of Art
A realistic painter as well as a photographer, Charles Sheeler rarely failed to uncover harmonious coherence in the forms of indigenous American architecture. His series of photographs of the Ford plant near Detroit was commissioned by the automobile company through an advertising agency. Widely reproduced in Europe and America in the 1920s, this commanding image of technological utopia became a monument to the transcendent power of industrial production in the early modern age.
Sheeler was one of the founders of American modernism, developing a syle of painting known as Percisionism. He attended the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial art from 1900 to 1903. Sheeler later attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he studied under William Merritt Chase, who later established the Parsons School of Design.
Realizing he could not make a living with Modernist painting, Sheeler focused in 1910 on commercial photography, particularly on architectual subjects. He was a self-taught photographer, leaning his trade on a five-dollar Brownie made by Eastman Kodak. The theme of machinery and technology featured prominently in Sheeler’s photographic work, which continued the linear precision of his paintings.