Charles Demuth (Charles Demuth)

Charles Demuth

Painter. An outstanding watercolorist, he later pioneered abstract art in the United States with a style called Precisionism. His most famous painting, “The Figure 5 in Gold” (1928), was a forerunner of the Pop Art movement and greatly influenced such figures as Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. Demuth was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he lived all his life. He studied art in Philadelphia at the Drexel Institute (1901 to 1905) and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1905 to 1911), but it was his visits to Paris in 1907 and 1911 that had the most profound effect on his development. There he became friends with painter Marsden Hartley, through whom he gained entry to the important group that revolved around photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Demuth’s  ethereal yet striking watercolors of still lifes, landscapes, cabaret and circus scenes established him as an important new talent. The World War I years saw cubist and futurist influences creeping into his style, notably in “Trees and Barns Bermuda” (1917), and by 1921 he had embarked on a new phase, creating semi-abstract images in oils that were somehow American in their hard-edged directness. Most representative are his nine “Poster Portraits” (1923 to 1929) of his creative friends, and a series of seven panel paintings (1927 to 1933) of factory buildings around Lancaster. “The Figure 5 in Gold” is a “portrait” of author William Carlos Williams, inspired by his poem “The Great Figure” (1921), which describes a red fire engine painted with the number 5 racing through a rainy night. Long afflicted with poor health, Demuth died from complications of diabetes at 51. He bequeathed most of his paintings to Georgia O’Keefe, who did much to promote his legacy. (bio by: Bobb Edwards)  Family links:  Parents:  Ferdinand A Demuth (1857 – 1911)  Augusta Wise Buckius Demuth (1856 – 1943)

Born

  • November, 08, 1883
  • USA

Died

  • October, 10, 1935
  • USA

Cemetery

  • Lancaster Cemetery
  • Pennsylvania
  • USA

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