Charles Henry Demuth
(1883 - 1935)
Charles Henry Demuth was active/lived in Pennsylvania, New York / Europe. Charles Demuth is known for precisionist painting, landscape, still life, figure, portrait, industrial scene.
Charles Henry Demuth
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A painter of allegorical figurative watercolors including a vaudeville
series and contemporary floral studies, Charles Demuth was a
major exponent of Precisionism as well as more poetic styles that
emphasized emotional response to art. Much of his work is rooted in
French modernism including Fauvism. He painted with oil and tempera as
well as watercolor, and completed about 750 paintings and 350 drawings
during his lifetime.
Demuth was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
and kept close ties to his hometown, although he moved in highly
sophisticated circles in New York, Provincetown, and Paris, and
delighted in the bohemian lifestyle he found in these places.
He had a childhood of much isolation and illness and throughout his life had a sense of being an outsider.
Demuth first studied at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, and after a trip
to Europe in 1904, became a student of Thomas Anschutz at the
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts until 1911. Then he went to Paris for
two years and began his pursuit of modern art, becoming associated with
avant-garde literary persons including Gertrude and Leo Stein, and
modernist painters Matisse, Braque, Derain, Dufy and Vlaminck. He
attended the Academie Julian, Academie Colarossi, and Academie Moderne.
early paintings were simple floral and figure studies in watercolor
with shifting tonalities of color, and he also did watercolor
illustrations for books and plays including by authors Henry James and
Returning to America in 1914, he became one of the
modernist artists associated with Alfred Stieglitz, pioneer of photography as art, and was also among
the group of intellectuals around Marcel Duchamp and the Dada Movement.
He and Duchamp spent much time in Harlem jazz clubs and Greenwich
Village bars, and he loved the life of the big city libertine. A close
friend was Marsden Hartley, and they went to Bermuda together in 1916
From 1915, much of his effort was devoted to
figurative subjects, and a recurring theme was acrobatic figures, which
reflected an early 20th century American interest. His art reputation
was established with his New York solo exhibition in 1915 at the George
Daniel Gallery, and shortly after he experimented with Cubism. However, his signature style, Precisionism, took hold in 1919 with paintings of empty-seeming urban landscapes, barren of human
emotion, and reflective of post-World War I disillusionment.
the 1920s, Demuth's work became increasingly realistic and more focused on
line and shape and color. He suffered from diabetes and turned to
small-scale still life and floral studies that, unlike his urban
studies, were loaded with personal feeling. Between 1924 and 1929, he
did many portraits of friends with objects symbolic to their lives. Among those portrait subjects were Georgia O'Keeffe, John Marin, and Marsden Hartley.
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art, Volume I
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