American Modern: Hopper to O'Keeffe

Charles Sheeler (American, 1883–1965)
Conté crayon, gouache, and pencil on paper
19 3/4 x 25 5/8" (50.1 X 65.2 cm)
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller

Charles Sheeler. Self-Portrait. 1923

Conté crayon, gouache, and pencil on paper, 19 3/4 x 25 5/8" (50.1 X 65.2 cm). Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller

Director, Glenn Lowry: For centuries, artists have painted their reflections. In Self-Portrait, Charles Sheeler depicts himself as a shadowy presence in a window pane, left of center.

Assistant Curator, Kathy Curry: The telephone really covers up much of him, and becomes him, his persona. It could be about technology taking over communication and the dominance of that in life at that time.

The cord snakes around the telephone and the receiver and it's highlighted in brown— a beautiful velvety brown. And he's also included the cord for the blinds— that white: It just sort of pops out over the blackened, darkened pane.

Glenn Lowry: These looping lines and strong contrasts further emphasize the telephone over the figure. In fact, Sheeler originally titled the work Audubon 451— his own telephone exchange. He also wanted to convey a sense of anonymity through his technique. Sheeler commented on his work of the 1920s.

Charles Sheeler (read by actor): It was my aim to eliminate the evidence of painting as such and to present a design giving the least evidence of the means of accomplishment.

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