Charles Sheeler (American, 1883–1965)
Conté crayon on paper, mounted on cardboard
H. 23 3/4 in. (60.3 cm), W. 18 in. (45.7 cm)
Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, Bequest of Edith Abrahamson Lowenthal, 1991 (1992.24.7)
The Open Door is based on a photograph that Charles Sheeler took in 1917, when he was living in an eighteenth-century house in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Although he had left Doyletown in 1926, he frequently returned to his photographs of the house and used them as source material for works in other media. Concentrating on the corner of the house's living room, where the rectangles of the outer door, the inner door and doorway, a window (here blocked by the open door), and a small mirror on the wall all converge, Sheeler established skillful compositional contrasts of solids and voids, verticals and horizontals, and light and darkness in his photograph. For the drawing, exploiting the velvety texture of the conté crayon, he evoked the textures of wood and plaster, as well as the shadowy beams of the ceiling. He also made slight alterations in lighting and viewpoint, and he eliminated small details such as the door's latch, some damaged plaster on the walls, and a repaired crack in the door panels. This subtle reversal of the effects of time, the obstruction of the view through the window, and the darkened reflection in the mirror add an element of mystery to Sheeler's realism. In other works, Sheeler depicted the same door closed, the stairwell beyond the door, and wider views of the room, which also included a coal-burning stove and a fireplace.