Charles Sheeler - The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1 New York Monday, April 3, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Charles Sheeler to Robert and Nancy Fawcett, Ridgefield, Connecticut
    Private Collection
    Christie’s, New York, 5 April 1995, lot 46
    Berry-Hill Gallery, New York, 2001

  • Catalogue Essay

    With its clarity and clean lines, Charles Sheeler’s Boulder Dam presents a straightforward but nonetheless dramatic record of its subject. Built upon the Colorado River, between Arizona and Nevada, and heralded as a marvel of modern engineering, the dam was completed in 1936 and provided an unprecedented amount of electric power to California, Nevada, and Arizona.

    This photograph has its origins in a 1938 assignment from Fortune magazine. Commissioned to produce a pictorial essay on American industrial power, Sheeler photographed structures throughout the United States that symbolized American innovation, achievement, and power. His images of airplanes, railroads, turbines, and dams, served as the basis for the six paintings illustrated in Fortune’s December 1940 issue. Boulder Dam, now known officially as Hoover Dam, was ideal subject matter for Sheeler’s assignment, and he photographed it extensively.

    Boulder Dam bears out Sheeler’s belief in photography’s ability to “account for the visual world with an exactitude not equaled by any other medium” (Charles Sheeler: Paintings, Drawings, Photographs, p. 11). It was one of the prize-winning images in The Museum of Modern Art’s 1941 Image of Freedom competition, and was exhibited at MoMA, along with the other winning entries, from October 1941 to February 1942, then toured in the traveling exhibition.

    The print offered here was given by Sheeler to his friends and Connecticut neighbors Robert and Nancy Fawcett. Robert Fawcett was a successful commercial illustrator who produced work for The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Look, and many other magazines. He is the author of On the Art of Drawing, a book still in print today: he also served on the faculty of the Famous Artists School and was a member of the National Academy of Design.


Boulder Dam

Gelatin silver print.
6 1/4 x 9 3/8 in. (15.9 x 23.8 cm)
Signed and inscribed 'To Nancy and Bob' in pencil on the mount.

$40,000 - 60,000 

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The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1

New York 3 April 2017