American Modernism: The Shein Collection presents 20 masterpieces by Patrick Henry Bruce, Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Marcel Duchamp, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Man Ray, Charles Sheeler, and other renowned artists. The collection demonstrates the importance of the early American modernists in the development of the avant-garde in the United States and Europe during the 20th century.
In 2008 and 2009, the Gallery received three gifts from Edward and Deborah Shein: John Storrs’ Auto Tower, Industrial Forms (c. 1922), Marcel Duchamp’s Fresh Widow (1920/1964), and John Marin’s The Written Sea (1952). The Sheins intend to continue making gifts of important works from their collection with their ultimate goal of giving all 20 of their masterworks to the Gallery.
“The Sheins have succeeded in building a collection that offers a remarkably full and nuanced account of the first avant-garde in the United States,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “Their commitment to the Gallery and its public mission to collect, preserve, exhibit, and educate is evident not only in their willingness to live without their entire collection for more than six months, but also through their gifts and promised gifts. We are tremendously grateful to the Sheins for contributing in such an intelligent and substantive way to our programs.”
The exhibition is the latest in a series at the Gallery devoted to American modernism, including one-person shows of the work of Georgia O’Keeffe (1987), John Marin (1990), Paul Strand (1990), and Charles Sheeler (2006), as well as ambitious overviews of the period, Modern Art in America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries (2001) and Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection (2000).
Distinguished by its rigorous focus on leading artists from the first generation of American modernists as well as the extraordinarily high quality of the paintings, sculptures, and drawings it contains, the Shein Collection is one of the nation’s foremost private collections of early American modernist works.
Among the works on display are exceedingly rare objects such as Painting (Still Life) (c. 1919), by Patrick Henry Bruce, one of only 25 extant paintings from Bruce’s brilliant late still-life series; Charles Demuth’s iconic precisionist painting of American industry, End of the Parade, Coatesville, Pa. (1920); Marsden Hartley’s Pre-War Pageant (1913), a singular precursor to his famous German officer series; Man Ray’s precocious canvas, Legend (1916); a machine image by Morton Livingston Schamberg, Painting VI (1916), executed shortly before the artist’s tragic early death at age 37 in 1918; and a recently discovered, large-scale pair of cast-concrete works by the sculptor John Storrs, Auto Tower, Industrial Forms (c. 1922).
The trio of artists most consistently championed by the photographer Alfred Stieglitz — Arthur Dove, John Marin, and Georgia O’Keeffe — is also represented, respectively, by their classic masterpieces Sunrise I (1936), Sunset (1922), and Dark Iris No. 2 (1927). In addition, helping to bridge the history of this generation of American artists before and after World War II are the late masterworks The Written Sea (1952) by Marin, Composition around White (1959) by Charles Sheeler, Unfinished Business (1962) by Stuart Davis, and Marcel Duchamp’s 1964 version of Fresh Widow. Completing the collection are important paintings and drawings by Arthur B. Davies, Edwin Dickinson, Preston Dickinson, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Alfred Maurer, Joseph Stella, and Max Weber.
Curators and Catalogue
Nancy Anderson, curator and head of American and British paintings, Charles Brock, associate curator of American and British paintings, and Harry Cooper, curator of modern and contemporary art, organized the exhibition.
Published by the National Gallery of Art, a fully illustrated catalogue includes a preface by Cooper, essays by Brock and Anderson, as well as entries and artists’ biographies featuring new scholarship by William C. Agee, Emma Acker, Brock, Judith Brodie, Ruth Cloudman, Cooper, John Driscoll, Betsy Fahlman, Ruth Fine, Sarah Greenough, Francis M. Naumann, Percy North, Gail Scott, Wilford W. Scott, Will South, and Jeffrey Weiss. The 148-page catalogue includes 78 color and 23 duotone illustrations and is available for purchase in the Gallery Shops in hardcover.