Charles Demuth (1883-1935)
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Charles Demuth was an American artist who developed a style known as Precisionism. Demuth was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he spent the entirety of his childhood. Unfortunately, Demuth suffered from poor health most of his life. He struggled through polio as well as early on-set diabetes. Despite health issues, Demuth showed strong skills in the arts and academics. Demuth attended the Franklin and Marshall Academy and Drexel University before enrolling at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia.
At PAFA, Demuth worked alongside William Carlos Williams. Williams’ poem Figure 5 in Gold inspired Demuth’s most famous painting, I saw the Figure 5 in Gold. The poem is about watching a fire engine passing through the rain, while waiting for Marsden Hartley. Demuth made a total of nine pieces, honoring friends, artists and writers who were important to him, including Georgia O’Keefe, Arthur Dove, Charles Duncan, John Marin, Gertrude Stein, Eugene O’Neill and Wallace Stevens.
After completing his studies in Philadelphia, Demuth continued his education in Europe, studying at the Académie Colarossi and the Académie Julian in Paris. In France, Demuth was quickly accepted into the art scene and could become public about his homosexuality. Through the good fortune of being introduced to Alfred Stieglitz, Demuth became a member of the “Stieglitz Group” and was given shows at the Anderson and Intimate Galleries in New York City.
In 1927, Demuth returned to his hometown, Lancaster, to paint a series of local factories. Demuth finished the seventh painting in the series, After All, in 1933. Shortly after completing the series Demuth died from diabetic complications. Though Demuth was only in his fifties when his life ended, he had enough time to make a name for himself in the art world. Demuth was represented by Alfred Stieglitz, as well as major New York City museums. Demuth’s paintings were shown at the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. After his death, Demuth’s childhood home in Lancaster was converted into a museum and the Demuth Foundation of the Arts.
Charles Demuth is now recognized as an influential figure in twentieth century American art. Demuth’s paintings belong to major museums and private collections across the United States. Do you think you own a painting by Charles Demuth? Contact us. We are the Charles Demuth experts.