Friday, July 11, 2014

Arty Farty Friday Twofer~ James Ormsbee Chapin & Charles Sheeler

We're back to the 1920s and 30s once again for today's featured artists. That was the time when people born during fertile Pluto in Gemini era (1882-1914) came into their own and began showing the world their arty or literary skills.

(Snip from HERE)
American life was dramatically transformed in the years following the Great War, as urbanization, industrialization, mechanization, and rampant materialism altered the environment and the way people lived. American artists responded to this dizzying modern world with works that embraced a new brand of idealized realism to evoke a seemingly perfect modern world. The twenties saw a vigorous renewal of figurative art that melded uninhibited body-consciousness with classical ideals. Wheareas images of the modern body were abundant, artists represented American places and things as distilled and largely uninhabited arrangements of pristine forms.

Two American artists from the era described above were James Ormsbee Chapin and Charles Sheeler. Both were born in July with Sun in Cancer, their styles were quite different - almost opposite in fact.

James Ormsbee Chapin (father of jazz musician Jim Chapin and grandfather of folk singer Harry Chapin) born on 9 July 1887 in West Orange, New Jersey. He studied art in New York, later he became an award winning pupil at the Royal Academy in Antwerp.

 Ruby Green Singing
"The artist’s sensitivity for mankind is evident in his famous series of paintings depicting the Marvins, a farm family who lived near the artist in rural New Jersey during the 1920′s and 30′s. His insightful and heroic depiction of “Ruby Green Singing” (a young black singer) is the single most popular painting held in the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, Florida. His late work created during the 1960′s and 70′s exhibits the depth of the artist’s concern about war and society’s injustices. Americans such as writer Robert Frost, composer George Gershwin and financier John D. Rockefeller collected Chapin’s work."
Human warmth, heroism, and complex character in ordinary people were hallmarks of Chapin's paintings. A story from an album by his grandson, Harry Chapin, a storyteller and songwriter who died tragically at a very young age, is about his grandfather, James Ormsbee Chapin:

"My grandfather was a painter. He died at age eighty-eight, he illustrated Robert Frost's first two books of poetry and he was looking at me and he said, 'Harry, there are two kinds of tired: there's good-tired, and there's bad-tired.'

He said, 'Ironically enough, bad-tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people's battles, you lived other people's days, other peoples agendas, other people's dreams and when it was all over there was very little "you" in there, and when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn--you don't settle easy.'

He said, 'Good-tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost. But you don't have to tell yourself, 'cause you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days, and when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy--you sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say "take me away."' He said, 'Harry, all my life I've painted. God, I would've loved to be more successful, but I painted and I painted, and I am good-tired and they can take me away.'
(Hat-tip to Trowel and Paintbrush Blog)

 George Marvin and Daughter Edith

 Robert Frost in New Hampshire

 Child at Window

 Nine Workmen

 Folk Singers (Homage to Joan Baez)

 Street Market, New York

Quite different in "feel" and style was the art of Charles Sheeler, born in Philadelphia four years earlier than Chapin, on 16 July 1883. He studied art in Pennsylvania and during trips to Europe where he was particularly influenced by Italian Masters and French modernists. Marcel Duchamp's work played an important role in his understanding of the essential structure of forms. He took up photography, with focus on architectural subjects, which in turn influenced his later paintings. He moved to New York in 1919, where the skyscrapers, icons of the city, lent precise geometric form to his paintings, His style eventually became known as "precisionist", featuring the drama of light and shadow seen from unusual perspectives.

Commissions to photograph the Ford Motor Company’s plant at River Rouge, Michigan (1927-28), brought him international acclaim for his pristine views of American industry, both photographic and in paintings. During the 1930s, Sheeler focused his attention on developing a style based on strong geometric order for subjects of American industrial life . (Information from HERE )

Photography is nature seen from the eyes outwards. Painting is nature seen from the eyes inwards. (Charles Sheeler)

Sheeler's view of industrialization was a positive one, as it was for most during the machine age, which seemed to promise unbounded prosperity. Sheeler wrote:
"Every age manifests itself by some external evidence. In a period such as ours when only a comparatively few individuals seem to be given to religion, some form other than the Gothic cathedral must be found. Industry concerns the greatest numbers––it may be true, as has been said, that our factories are our substitute for religious expression. "
Hat-tip to Studio and Garden Blog

 River Rouge Plant

 Red Against the Light

 Pertaining to Yachts and Yachting
 Staircase in Doylestown


Both charts are set for 12 noon as birth times aren't known.

James Ormsbee Chapin born 9 July 1887 in West Orange New Jersey.

Charles Sheeler born on 16 July 1883 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Thinks: A test for an astrologer: look at both artists' work then decide which chart belongs to which artist. Happily, as a humble blogger and astrological dabbler only, I get to know which is which - otherwise that test could prove very difficult indeed!

Whether the two guys were as different personality-wise as their works suggest can't be known. From the paintings there's a natural warmth and empathy coming from Chapin, and cool, sophisticated and deliberate exactitude from Sheeler.

Where to find that difference in their natal charts? Moon positions are not accurate as shown, but Sheeler's would certainly have been in Sagittarius, whatever his birth time. Chapin's Pisces Moon is also likely in the right sign, and accounts for his softer "feel", a much better blend with his Cancer Sun than Sheeler's Fire-sign Moon.

Rising signs are unknown, but could well account for some differences in style and approach.

Sheeler's Sun and Jupiter are in helpful sextile to Uranus (and Neptune - photography) - maybe this reflects his creative gravitation towards, and optimistic feel for, all that was new in the American landscape.

What else? Maybe that Gemini Saturn/Mars/Pluto conjunction in Sheeler's chart, in semi-sextile to his Mercury/Venus in Cancer, was a "hardening" factor? You can certainly feel Saturn in his paintings. But then, Chapin's Sun is conjunct Saturn - so.....

I'm going to leave it at that. Perhaps friendly commenters will assist with their own thoughts on the matter.


mike said...

I certainly like and appreciate Chapin's paintings, but I wouldn't want one in my personal space (as if)...something about his people make me pensive...the look on their faces. Sheeler's "Pertaining to Yachts and Yachting" would be perfect, though!

Twilight said...

I feel I'd probably have liked Chapin better as a personality, but I do prefer all of Sheeler's paintings. I'd be happy to hang any of them in my living room (but wouldn't be able to afford 'em of course).

Do you think an astrologer (you for instance) could have decided which chart belonged to which artist just from looking at their paintings?

mike (again) said...

Interesting proposition, Twilight. If I don't know time of birth, I usually look at the sunrise chart, equal house. I particularly look at the leading planets that rise prior to the Sun...those are the planets that I think determine action potential, or what a person feels they need to do in life. Both artists have Neptune-Pluto-Mars leading in the same quadrant! Chapin has occidental Moon...Sheeler has occidental Neptune.

Mars 12th house
Pluto & Neptune 11th house

Jupiter, Mercury, & Venus 12th house
Saturn, Mars, & Pluto 11th house
Neptune 10th house

The 11th house is opposite the fifth house of creativity, artistic expression...the 11th house is polarized with the fifth. Chapin's paintings, while full and rich, have a desolate, slightly gloomy quality...pensive as I said earlier. Pluto & Neptune?

Sheeler's work seems regimented, metric-symetric, structured, planned. His solar fifth house holds the Moon 12* plus-minus 6* his planets in the 11th oppose his Moon, at least by sign. Neptune in his 10th would indicate some sort of potential fame by Neptune-ruled domains, such as photography and film.

Of course, I wrote the above knowing which chart belonged to each artist...LOL. I think I would draw the same conclusion, if I had no idea which chart belonged to whom.

mike (again) said...

Oh, oh...I used the word "occidental" (after the Sun) when I meant "oriental" (before the Sun):

Chapin has oriental Moon; Sheeler has oriental Neptune.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Hmm - clever stuff, mike! Thanks. I'd have had no idea at all which was which.

I see what you mean about Chapin's characters looking pensive/gloomy, but the fact that he wanted to paint people rather than things/buildings makes him seem more humane (although I'm sure Sheeler was in no way inhumane!)

mike (again) said...

Sheeler has one very distinguishing aspect in his chart to differentiate from Chapin: Mars conjunct Saturn in Gemini. This is an unemotional, mental aspect (Gemini) that is very controlled (Saturn), with a fear (Saturn) of active expression (Mars). I think Sheeler felt more comfortable duplicating reality in a linear fashion, without revealing too much of his personal, emotional characteristics. I suspect he saw his art as a profession rather than personal expression.

Chapin's astrology would indicate to me that he actively expressed himself through his art and that he was an artist that enjoyed the benefits and zeitgeist of art...his efforts were for creativity and pleasure rather than a profession. He has Venus square Neptune-Pluto and possibly a T-square with Moon, which would direct the T-square energy to his fifth solar house.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Yes, that did strike me (also conjoined to Pluto) - think I mentioned it towards the end of my post - but then there's Chapin's Sun conjunct Saturn - so I decided either of 'em could have painted the more structural and structured pictures.
:-/ that IS probably the most telling part of Sheeler's chart though.

mike (again) said...

The classical interpretation of Sun conj Saturn (in solar first house of self) is lack of self-assertion, too much self-restraint, depression, and inhibition. Isabel Hickey states that it's often a mark of an unhappy childhood, usually induced by a heavy-handed father. Combine that with Chapin's Venus sq Neptune-Pluto...possible T-sq with Moon, and I think those are the strange, pensive, expressionless faces in his paintings...the people in his paintings look like they are waiting for something.

I tried to find some biographical information on Chapin, but to no avail. The closest I could find regarding possible family problems occurred when Chapin was about 25 years of age:
"Chapin returned to the United States in 1912 to alleviate family debts by working at various illustration jobs."

I'm surprised at the lack of biography on Chapin, considering his fame and progeny.

mike (again) said...

And one last comment...LOL. Saturn is in detriment in Cancer, which would severely limit his Sun in Cancer.

Hickey states:
"Saturn in Cancer - Emotions too crystallized. May come, not from innate selfishness, but from a hurt to the feelings early in life or by a parent. The result would be that he would build up a self-protective coating where emotions are concerned."

The link in my previous comment stated that he retreated to the rural farm life, once while a bachelor, then again after marriage. I suppose he felt safer in isolation with his family, but more for his self-interests - very Saturn conj Sun in Cancer.

Twilight said...

mike (again) and (again) lol!

This is interesting though. :-)

Different astrologers have differing views on interpretation of Sun conjunct Saturn, depending on whether their own astrology tends to give them a positive or negative view of Saturn (my opinion only!) I don't see Saturn as intrinsically sad, bad or unfortunate, just structured, disciplined - which brings in restriction and limitation (not always a bad thing). Also I'm not keen on the 'Saturn is the father Moon is the mother' thing either - that seems to be a piece of doctrine out of the ark. ;-)

I have Alan Oken's "Complete Astrology" on my shelf so took a look on his take on it:

Sun-Saturn keywords Will-Consolidation

Will unites with Consolidation. This configuration can inspire an individual to achieve prominence in the world, or it can be a strong depressive factor. A great deal depends on other planets in aspect to the conjunction. It does denote people who take life seriously, who should cultivate "light" and cheerful friends, and who should always seek to express themselves through some creative medium. (Nickname) "The Builder".

The main thread through your findings and this is the potential for depressive emotions.

It is surprising, as you said, that there's so little on Chapin. All I could find was the quote from his grandson's album, which is nice but doesn't shed a lot of light.