Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sherril Schell

"Brooklyn Bridge," ca. 1930

"Eva La Galliene"

"Chinatown," ca. 1930

"Garment Center," ca. 1930

"Construction," ca. 1930

"Dome of Chrysler Building, New York City," ca. 1930

Sherril Schell Biorgraphy from Antiques and the Arts Online (from May 30, 2006 preview of Schell exhibit at The Museum of the City of New York):

Fifteen rarely seen photographs of the city's built environment, taken by a little-known but important and pioneering photographer of the 1930s, are on view at the Museum of the City of New York through June 13. "Sherril Schell: Unknown Modernist" explores the work of this member of New York's avant-garde and sheds light on his singularity among the photographers of his day.

The exhibition is being curated by Thomas H. Mellons, the museums curator of special exhibitions.

Schell (1877-1964) saw beyond the documentary function of photography and used unconventional perspectives to create striking compositions.

He often employed strong diagonal elements that served to emphasize the abstract qualities of the city's built environment. Contrasts of light and dark, actuality and reflection, sharp focus and blurriness conveyed his view of the city as a collection of images that could be arranged and manipulated to express his creative intent.

Schell's work was published in The New York Times and championed by Henry McBride, a leading art critic and proponent of modern art. Lincoln Kirstein, who founded the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art (which predated the creation of the Museum of Modern Art) also recognized Schell's genius.

Yet despite success and critical acclaim, Schell is largely overlooked today. Little is known about his life. Most likely born in the United States, he lived and worked in London in the early 1900s where he concentrated on producing photographic portraits of well-known people, including the poet Rupert Brooke.

A writer as well as a photographer, he contributed articles to journals such as The Bookman and International Studio, and often illustrated them with his own photographs. One of Schell's articles appeared in Arts and Decoration; focusing on the then-esoteric fad of incense burning, the article featured his photographs of the devices. Julien Levy, among the most influential art dealers of his time, included Schell in a 1932 group show titled "Photographs of New York by New York Photographers," alongside photographers who ultimately achieved lasting fame: Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, Ralph Steiner and Margaret Bourke-White. But by the 1950s, Schell had long vanished from the New York art scene and was living in Hollywood, Calif., where he died in 1964.

The Museum of the City of New York is at 1220 Fifth Avenue. For information, 212-534-1672 or www.mcny.org.


  1. Good to see some more info on the much under-rated Schell but please note it was the 1910s not the 1930s that Schell was in London. Recently have just acquired a print of his stunning photograph of Anita Loos

  2. Many thanks for the update on the time Schell spent in Longon in the early part of the 20th Century. I will certainly correct my entry.


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