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Side of White Barn, Bucks County, Pa., 1915. (Charles Sheeler/The Lane Collection, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Considered one of the founders of American modernism, Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) turned from painting to photography as a way to make a living. His early work included a series focused on his 18th-century house in Doylestown, Pa. These photographs proved to be some of the most abstract work being produced in the United States at the time. Sheeler continued to photograph architecture, from barns in Pennsylvania to cityscapes in Manhattan. He said the barns’ “builders weren’t building a work of art. If it’s beautiful to some of us afterward, it’s beautiful because it functioned.”

An exhibition of Sheeler’s work, “Charles Sheeler from Doylestown to Detroit,” is on display from July 22 to Nov. 5 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Buggy, Doylestown, Pa., 1917. (Charles Sheeler/The Lane Collection, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

From left, Doylestown House, the Stove; Doylestown House — Stairs from Below; Doylestown House — Stairwell, 1917. (Charles Sheeler/The Lane Collection, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Criss-Crossed Conveyors — Ford Plant, 1927. (Charles Sheeler/The Lane Collection, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

(Left to Right) Ladle Hooks, Open Hearth Building — Ford Plant; Stamping Press — Ford Plant, 1927. (Charles Sheeler/The Lane Collection, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

New York, Buildings in Shadows and Smoke, 1920. (Charles Sheeler/The Lane Collection, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)