Urban Realism and the American Scene
Charles Sheeler (1883–1965)
Bucks County Barn, 1940
Charles Sheeler pioneered the distinctly American style known as precisionism. Characterized by a stark aesthetic, it drew inspiration from the stripped down utilitarian look of the industrial environment. Recognized for his work both as a photographer and a painter, Sheeler relied on the uncluttered functionality of vernacular design to produce coolly analytical art. Bucks County Barn emphasizes the building’s geometric structure to celebrate the clean clarity and spare design of Pennsylvania’s traditional architecture. Countering the aura of stillness and impersonality that the painting projects, two cows, pale-green grass, and the downed rails of a fence lend the image authenticity and immediacy. This crisp portrait of the red-and-white barn, based on a Sheeler photograph, recalls the intent of the so-called American Scene movement, which exalted the heartland and advocated an artistic style both modern and emphatically American.
Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.