Michener Art Museum

Morton Livingston Schamberg

PAINTER, PHOTOGRAPHER, SCULPTOR
BORN: October 15, 1882, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DIED: October 13, 1918, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Morton Livingston Schamberg, a painter, sculptor, and photographer whose brief but innovative twelve-year career ended with his untimely death at age thirty-seven, personifies the image of young genius who was ahead of his time. Schamberg was the first artist to use industrial and mechanical images as the basis for geometric art, which developed into the early Twentieth Century style known as Precisionism. Following his graduation from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1906, Schamberg and friend Charles Scheeler traveled to Paris. Returning to Philadelphia, they set up a studio and did commercial photography for a living. By 1912, Schamberg began incorporating cubist elements in his paintings, showing "the prismatic shattering of light into its component colors". Schamberg and Sheeler participated in the first Armory Show and were influential in bringing the first exhibit of these paintings to Philadelphia. By 1916, Schamberg's style changed dramatically, with more emphasis on line and structure, fitting to his central topic, the machine. He shared the dadaists' attitude towards technology, but emphasized the formal beauty of machines. Other painters, including Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, and Elsie Driggs elaborated upon Schamberg's mechanical theme in their work. Schamberg died prematurely during the 1918 Philadelphia influenza epidemic.