Description: Still Life Watercolor / Paper
Signed and dated 'C. Demuth '1931' lower right.
13 x 9in. 25 x 17 in (Overall)
Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Charles Henry Demuth
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.
His 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 Emile Zola.
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 and 1917.
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.
During 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.
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