24 in. x 19 in. (60.96 cm x 48.26 cm)
Sheeler and his wife, Musya, arrived in Andover in October 1946. Hayes's invitation was timely, for Sheeler had recently completed a three-year appointment as senior research fellow in photography at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, an assignment which sustained him artistically and financially while he struggled to find fresh inspiration for his painting. At the Addison, Sheeler had no responsibilities for lecturing, meeting with students, or conducting classes. Nor did he do any painting, for, as he would explain later, it always took him time to absorb the meaning of a new location. Rather, he spent his time looking and making "notes . . . in shorthand.”2 These "shorthand notes," many of which were made with the camera, became the source for an important series of paintings produced over the next three years, and, ultimately, for a new working method.
In addition to producing a number of straightforward photographs of Phillips Academy buildings during his visit, Sheeler found and photographed a group of abandoned mill buildings in a section of town called Ballardvale, just south of the campus. The most interesting of these proved to be a blocky brick structure with a tall, square chimney.3 As he had done with the old barns of eastern Pennsylvania at the beginning of his career, Sheeler pictured the mill from a number of vantage points, in a manner both carefully descriptive and innovatively abstract. He characterized this mundane building as heroic, both affecting in its isolation and vital in its endurance. In what was probably his first painted study in the series, The Mill, the tone is romantic and vaguely elegiac. Sheeler depicted a corner of the ground floor of the building, cutting off the chimney and stressing the deep shadows and darkened windows. He called such buildings “carcasses”;4 here, the intimate vantage point, the small scale of the picture, and the emphasis on the mottled texture of the old brick and on the foliage that has grown up and blocked the doorway suggest the ruin of a dignified structure, now deserted and reclaimed by nature.
In Ballardvale, Sheeler's view of the building is more expansive. The smokestack, rather than the shadowy lower floor of the structure, dominates; it is silhouetted like a church spire against a bright, faceted sky. The textural interest supplied by the bricks and the foliage is eliminated, colors are strong and unmodulated, and although the architectural features of the mill are clearly delineated, all indications of decay are gone and the building is portrayed as a confluence of soaring geometries. While The Mill is a cloistered, huddled, private image, Ballardvale is triumphant.
The Ballardvale buildings remained in Sheeler's mind for many years after he left Andover. In 1947 he produced Architectural Planes (William H. Lane Foundation), emphasizing the essential abstraction of the mill by presenting a section of the façade and the base of the smokestack as a series of flat, intensely colored, overlapping geometric shapes. In 1949 he addressed the theme again: Variations in Red (The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio) is a reprise of Architectural Planes , while the Addison's Ballardvale Revisited (a study for a large oil at The Dayton Art Institute, Ohio) returns both to the intimacy of The Mill and to the idealized purity of Ballardvale. Tiny in scale, taut, elegant, and richly detailed, Ballardvale Revisited gives evidence of a new artistic method that Sheeler devised at about this time: rather than using single photographs to inform compositions that he wanted to develop in tempera or oil, he would combine two or more, experimenting with the intriguing designs resulting from the superimposition of related negatives. This method reached its greatest expression in two works, both of which have roots in Sheeler's Andover experience. In Counterpoint (1949, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), which stems, like Ballardvale Revisited, from two superimposed photographs of Ballardvale, one printed in reverse, the rich textures of foliage and brick and the fragmented and reconstituted segments of the façade are evocatively rendered in shadowy conté crayon. In New England Irrelevancies (1953, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), perhaps the masterpiece of Sheeler's late years, a reminiscence of Ballardvale is combined with a view of the factories at Manchester, New Hampshire (which Sheeler visited in 1948), and the romantic lyricism that Sheeler had found in these old industrial buildings once again comes to the fore.
Carol Troyen, Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, A Selective Catalogue (Andover, Massachusetts: Addison Gallery of American Art, 1996), pp. 463-64.
1. Bartlett J. Hayes, Jr., "A Museum Offers Aesthetic Security," MKR's art outlook, 25 November 1946, Downtown Gallery Records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., microfilm reel ND41, frame 124.
2. Charles Sheeler, interview with Bartlett Cowdrey, 9 December 1958, Charles Sheeler Papers, Archives of American Art, transcript, p. 19.
3. The building has since been torn down.
4. Sheeler interview, 9 December 1958, p. 23.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
- Terms of Criticism Addison Gallery of American Art , 00/00/00 - 5/10/1965
- Painting in the United States, 1947 Carnegie Institute Museum of Art , 10/9/1947 - 12/7/1947
- Charles Sheeler: loan exhibition Currier Museum of Art , 1/4/1948 - 2/2/1948
- Charles Sheeler The Downtown Gallery , 1/24/1949 - 2/12/1949
- Campus Taste in Art [Student Taste in Art] Addison Gallery of American Art , 2/16/1951 - 3/12/1951
- Charles Sheeler; A Retrospective Exhibition UCLA Department of Art , 10/11/1954 - 6/15/1955
- A Collector's Choice American Federation of Arts , 10/1/1955 - 9/24/1956
- Great American Painters of the 20th Century Coe College , 3/25/1957 - 4/12/1957
- Charles Sheeler; Retrospective Exhibition Allentown Art Museum , 11/15/1961 - 12/31/1961
- Art in American History Addison Gallery of American Art , 7/22/1962 - 10/28/1962
- Sheeler Retrospective Exhibition State University of Iowa , 3/17/1963 - 4/17/1963
- Terms of Criticism Addison Gallery of American Art , 7/26/1963 - 12/23/1963
- Realism and Reality American Federation of Arts , 1/1/1965 - 1/1/1966
- Terms of Criticism Addison Gallery of American Art , 7/15/1966 - 10/3/1966
- Charles Sheeler Memorial Exhibition Smithsonian Institution , 10/10/1968 - 4/27/1969
- Terms of Criticism Addison Gallery of American Art , 7/18/1969 - 10/19/1969
- The Works Addison Gallery of American Art , 11/7/1969 - 2/22/1970
- The Split-Up: The Beginning of a New Art in America Addison Gallery of American Art , 3/13/1981 - 4/12/1981
- Masterworks of American Art from the Addison Gallery Collection Hirschl and Adler Galleries, Inc. , 10/6/1981 - 10/31/1981
- New England Scenes from the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/26/1982 - 11/28/1982
- Art II Exhibition Addison Gallery of American Art , 1/14/1983 - 2/14/1983
- Order in Space: Precisionist Works by Demuth and Sheeler Terra Museum of American Art , 11/17/1985 - 1/12/1986
- The American City Addison Gallery of American Art , 1/18/1991 - 3/10/1991
- American Abstraction at the Addison Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/18/1991 - 7/31/1991
- American Abstraction from the Addison Gallery of American Art American Federation of Arts , 2/27/1993 - 12/4/1994
- Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/13/1996 - 7/31/1996
- Charles Sheeler in Andover: The Ballardvale Series Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/3/1996 - 12/1/1996
- Technology's Transformation of Perception and Reality in the American Landscape Henry Art Gallery , 2/10/2000 - 2/10/2001
- Place and Perceptions Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/16/2002 - 7/31/2002
- Conversations: A Collection in Dialogue Addison Gallery of American Art , 1/7/2003 - 7/31/2003
- Art, Artists, and the Addison: Building a Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 3/30/2004 - 7/31/2004
- Toward Abstraction Addison Gallery of American Art , 12/23/2005 - 3/26/2006
- Charles Sheeler: Across Media National Gallery of Art , 5/7/2006 - 5/6/2007
- Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s American Federation of Arts , 9/9/2006 - 9/7/2009
- Inside, Outside, Upstairs, Downstairs: The Addison Anew Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/7/2010 - 3/27/2011
- Eye on the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 1/19/2013 - 3/10/2013
- Industrial Strength: Selections from the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 2/1/2014 - 4/13/2014
- Exterior Spaces, Interior Places Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/2/2014 - 1/4/2015
- Searching for the Real Addison Gallery of American Art , 5/30/2015 - 7/31/2015
- Selections from the Permanent Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/12/2015 - 3/13/2016
- Selections from the Permanent Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 4/30/2016 - 7/31/2016
- Eye on the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/1/2016 - 3/19/2017
- Eye on the Collection Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/1/2017 - 7/31/2018
- A Wildness Distant from Ourselves: Art and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century America Addison Gallery of American Art , 9/1/2019 - 7/31/2020
- Learning to Look: The Addison at 90 Addison Gallery of American Art , 5/8/2021 - 2/6/2022
- [permanent collection, 101-105] Addison Gallery of American Art , 6/25/2022 - 1/29/2023
This object has the following bibliographic references:
Archives of American Art
Page Number: NSH-1, 1811, 1812
- George M. Craven. Charles Sheeler, A Self Inventory in the Machine Age . Athens, Ohio, May 27, 1957
and Erica Hirshler.
Sheeler: Paintings and Drawings
New York Graphic Society for MFA Boston.
New York, NY, 1987
Page Number: p. 35, Figure Number: fig. 29
Christian Science Monitor
January 22, 1949
Page Number: p. 10
George Michel Cohen.
Page Number: pg. 36
- E.L.B.. The Andover Townsman . October 17, 1946
San Francisco Chronicle
November 28, 1954
Page Number: pp. 19, 21
New York, NY, 1975
Page Number: p. 139-141, Figure Number: illus. p. 125
- Frank Getlein. Washington D.C. Star . Washington, D.C., October 13, 1968
The San Diego Union
January 9, 1955
Page Number: p. 21-22
- tests of Andover Inn reproductions . Palm Press, Inc.. 2010
- merchandise associated with Coming of Age exhibition . Dulwich Picture Gallery.
- Brian T. Allen. Brian Allen's article on Modern American Art in Antiques Magazine . Brant Publications, Inc.. 3/2008
- Mark Rawlinson. Charles Sheeler, American Modernism and the Borderline of Abstraction . IB Tauris. 12/2007
- Cécile Whiting. A New England Lament: Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand in the 1940s . College Art Association. December 2007 Art Bulletin
- Charles Sheeler and Albert Einstein: Pioneers in the Exploration of Spacetime! . Gala Books Ltd. 2018
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