Have I just been skating past this picture my entire Charles Sheeler-lovin’ life without noticing it? Is it in my books wherever, and I’ve missed it? How do I have to discover it via one of the most haphazard paths possible, three images deep in a Charles Sheeler eBay tangent?
“Lady at the Piano” is the title found nowhere but Robert Allerton Parker’s May 1926 article in International Studio, “The Classical Vision of Charles Sheeler,” the first extended discussion in print of the artist’s work.” Nowhere except the recap of Parker’s article in The Literary Digest a month later, two pages of which are being sold on eBay.
If it’s out there, it probably has a different title. A painting the Digest unhelpfully captioned with, “Greenwich Village on Good Behavior,” is now known as MacDougal Alley (1924), but was Houses, Washington Square when it was shown at MoMA in 1939. Keeping with the sepia & charcoal theme, the image above is of a 1920s photo of the (very brick red) painting, from The Metropolitan’s collection, where it’s titled New York – Washington Square.
No connected work appears in Sheeler’s 1939 MoMA retrospective, either, but there are comparables. This cropped lady and her highly reflective piano remind me of my first favorite Sheeler, the 1923 Self-Portrait, which used to hang next to the Wyeth and the Tchetchilew in the hallway just outside The Modern’s March of European Modernism galleries. These smoky works on paper are a seemingly impossible mix of precision and sfumato, drawings that looked like photographs.
Anyway, in the immortal words of Monique reaction dot gif, I would like to see it.