Charles Henry Buckius Demuth

 
         
  Still Life  

Still Life with Cup, Pitcher, & Apple

Watercolor on Paper
Image Size 10 1/4 x 15 1/8th

Charles Henry Buckius Demuth (November 8, 1883 – October 23, 1935) was an American watercolorist who turned to oils late in his career, developing a style of painting known as Precisionism.

"Search the history of American art," wrote Ken Johnson in The New York Times, "and you will discover few watercolors more beautiful than those of Charles Demuth. Combining exacting botanical observation and loosely Cubist abstraction, his watercolors of flowers, fruit and vegetables have a magical liveliness and an almost shocking sensuousness."

Demuth was a lifelong resident of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The home he shared with his mother is now the Demuth Museum, which showcases his work. He graduated from Franklin & Marshall Academy before studying at Drexel University and at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. While he was a student at PAFA, he participated in a show at the Academy, and also met William Carlos Williams at his boarding house. The two were fast friends and remained close for the rest of their lives.

He later studied at Académie Colarossi and Académie Julian in Paris, where he became a part of the avant garde art scene. The Parisian artistic community was accepting of Demuth's alleged homosexuality. After his return to America, Demuth retained aspects of Cubism in many of his works.


While he was in Paris he met Marsden Hartley by walking up to a table of American artists and asking if he could join them. He had a great sense of humor, rich in double entendres, and they asked him to be a regular member of their group. Through Hartley he met Alfred Stieglitz and became a member of the Stieglitz group. In 1926, he had a one-man show at the Anderson Galleries and another at Intimate Gallery, the New York gallery run by Stieglitz. Demuth was introduced to modernism during many trips to Europe between 1907 and 1921. Frequent trips from Lancaster to New York lead him to encounter many avant-garde styles and ideas, most notably Cubism, which is reflected in many of his works.

His most famous painting, The Figure Five in Gold, was inspired by his friend William Carlos Williams's poem "The Great Figure". Roberta Smith described the work in The New York Times: "Demuth's famous visionary accounting of Williams, I Saw the Figure Five in Gold, [is] a painting whose title and medallion-like arrangement of angled forms were both inspired by a verse the poet wrote after watching a fire engine streak past him on a rainy Manhattan street while waiting for Marsden Hartley, whose studio he was visiting, to answer his door." Describing its importance, Judith H. Dobrzynski in The Wall Street Journal wrote: "It's the best work in a genre Demuth created, the "poster portrait". It's a witty homage to his close friend, the poet William Carlos Williams, and a transliteration into paint of his poem, "The Great Figure". It's a decidedly American work made at a time when U.S. artists were just moving beyond European influences. It's a reference to the intertwined relationships among the arts in the 1920s, a moment of cross-pollination that led to American Modernism. And it anticipates pop art."

Demuth created to honor his creative friends; the pieces were devoted to artists Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove, Charles Duncan, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and writers Gertrude Stein, Eugene O'Neill, and Wallace Stevens. Painted during a period of recovery from illness, these paintings portray their respective painters and writers through referential objects and language, as opposed to literal depictions. These nine "poster portraits" combine letters and abstract shapes with realistic forms. These nine works proved to be a challenge for critics. One reviewer described the works as having been made in “a code for which we have not the key.”
Demuth began a series of paintings in 1919, inspired by the architecture of Lancaster. In creating these works, Demuth notably opted not to use watercolors, instead created the works in oil and tempera. Additionally, these works are larger than any of his others. They possess a notable balance between realism and abstraction. Demuth created works of this manner until 1933, two years before his untimely death.

Demuth, along with Georgia O'Keeffe and Charles Sheeler, was a major contributor to the Precisionist art movement, which began to evolve in America around 1915. Demuth's works often depicted a specific range of forms in a quasi-Cubist, sharply defined manner, a characteristic of Precisionism. Frequently occurring scenes within both Demuth's works are urban and rural landscapes, often consisting of industrial features such as bridges, smoke stacks, and skyscrapers. Demuth's "Aucassin and Nicolette," which can be viewed below, is an exemplary work of Precisionist art. Notable features include the highly structured scene lacking figures, depiction of an industrial setting, and sharp linearity created by geometric figures with no hint of abstraction. Demuth's works of this nature have been perceived as ironic and pessimistic in light of their subject matter.

In 1927, Demuth started a series of seven panel paintings depicting factory buildings in his hometown. He finished the last of the seven, After All in 1933 and died two years later. Six of those paintings are highlighted in Chimneys and Towers: Charles Demuth’s Late Paintings of Lancaster, a 2007 Amon Carter Museum retrospective of his work, displayed in 2008 at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

According to the exhibit notes from the Amon Carter show, Demuth's will left many of his paintings to Georgia O'Keeffe. Her strategic decisions regarding which museums received these works cemented his reputation as a major painter of the Precisionist school.

 
 
 
       
 

Click here to see more art on the Artist List

Click here to pin us with Pinterest

Please Call or Email the Gallery for Information

(888) 515-8682

Click here in the US to call us toll free!

or

From the 515 area code call 279-8682

2020 Grand Avenue Suite 800 in

West Des Moines, IA 50265

or email us at info@kagwdm.com

 On Twitter we are Kavanaugh_Art_G

Looking for a piece, but can't find it?

We have much more art in the gallery and many more pieces available to us.

Kavanaugh Art Gallery

Promote Your Page Too

Click here to signup for our email letter

Search Page

How to Order

Our Home Page

Contacts, Maps and Directions

Copyright Notice

© All art on this site Copyright 2017

Copyright held by the Artist or

the artists Representative ©2017

Can't find what you want on our website?

Click here to go to Art That Fits.com.