Artists & Designers

Charles Demuth (1883-1935)

The following essay is from the 1982 publication Dallas Collects American Paintings: Colonial to Early Modern: An Exhibition of Paintings from Private Collections in Dallas_._

Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Charles Demuth drew and made watercolors as a teenager, attended Franklin and Marshall Academy, and then studied art at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia (1901-04) and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1905-10) under Thomas Anshutz, William Merritt Chase, Hugh Breckenridge, and Henry McCarter, with visits to Europe in 1904 and 1907. His early work was traditional but slowly began to admit the influence of Henri Matisse and the Fauves. He lived in Paris from 1912 to 1914, where he knew Gertrude and Leo Stein and their avant-garde circle, and studied at the Moderne, Colarossi, and Julian Academies. The influence of Paul Cezanne and Cubism eventually became paramount as Demuth developed a style combining formal simplification, fine contours, and pale washes of color. He returned to the United States and had his first one-man show at the Daniel Gallery, New York, in 1914. Dividing his time between New York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Demuth frequented the Aresnberg salon and knew well many of the Stieglitz artists. In later years he was included in numerous exhibitions but suffered increasingly from diabetes until his death in 1935.

Adapted from

Steven A. Nash, "Charles Demuth (1883.-1935)", in Dallas Collects American Paintings: Colonial to Early Modern: an exhibition of paintings from private collections in Dallas,_ _ed. Robert V. Rozelle (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1982), 124.

Fun Facts

  • In the 1920s, Charles Demuth created several poster portraits of American artists and writers including Georgia O'Keeffe, Eugene O'Neill, and William Carlos Williams. The portraits depict individuals without the use of human figures, the most famous example being his portrait of Williams titled I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, which was based on Williams' poem "The Great Figure."

Web Resources

  • The Demuth Museum
    Learn more about the artist and his work from the Demuth Museum in Charles Demuth's hometown, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

  • Khan Academy
    Read more about the works of Charles Demuth and Precisionism at the Khan Academy website.

  • MOMA
    View more works by Charles Demuth at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
    Check out one of Demuth's abstract portraits, I Saw the Figure Five in Gold.