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Bassett Hall

Origin: America, Virginia, Williamsburg
Unframed: 20 1/2 x 24 1/2in. (52.1 x 62.2cm) and Framed: 27 1/4 x 30 1/2in.
Oil on canvas
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1939-346
A view of the western elevation of Bassett Hall from a point east of the west terrace and looking southeast toward large paper mulberry tree and the service wing. The house is depicted as it was during the winter of 1935-1936. (The restoration and additions had been completed, but the house was not fully furnished for occupancy). N. B.: On July 28, 1981, storm winds blew over the eastern half of the paper mulberry tree featured in this painting
Label:At Abby Aldrich Rockefeller's suggestion, Charles Sheeler visited Williamsburg from late December 1935 until February 1936. He spent his time painting and photographing in the historic area. None of his photographs have been located, but Mrs. Rockefeller acquired all three paintings he executed during his stay and, later, gave two of them to Colonial Williamsburg: this view of part of the western facade of Bassett Hall and a view of the Governor's Palace (acc. no. 1939-345). The third Sheeler painting of a Williamsburg subject depicted a kitchen interior at the Governor's Palace; this work remained in the Rockefeller family for years; in the latter part of the twentieth century, it was given to the M H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco.
Sheeler's Williamsburg paintings are very crisply delineated and almost photographic in feeling--- rather unlike his best known compositions, which feature architectural structures or industrial machines painted in an abstract manner, often in overlapping planes and brilliant color.
In July 1981, storm winds toppled the eastern half of the paper mulberry tree that is so prominently shown in Sheeler's portrayal of Bassett Hall.

Provenance:Acquired by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., from Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, NY, on June 3, 1936, Halpert presumably having acquired it directly from the artist. Given to CWF by Mrs. Rockefeller December 22, 1939.

File records seem clear about Halpert's sale of the painting to AAR, although various file references seem to contradict this by indicating that AAR commissioned Sheeler to visit Williamsburg to paint. (See, for example, Elizabeth Stubbs's memo of February 18, 1939, to Janet Montenecourt, apparently a secretary to AAR). Also, Sheeler's letter of June 6, 1936, to Kenneth Chorley states, "A few days ago I delivered to Mrs. Rockefeller the painting of Bassett Hall."
Inscription(s):Signed lower right, "Charles Sheeler. 1936."