Archive for October 10th, 2022

A Bit of Demuth


Charles Demuth- Number 5

The last mad throb of red just as it turns green; the ultimate shriek of orange calling all the blues of heaven for relief and support… each color almost regains the fun it must have felt within itself on forming the first rainbow.

–Charles Demuth, Letters of Charles Demuth, American Artist, 1883-1935

Charles DemuthRunning very late this morning and thought I’d run a post from way back in 2009 about a favorite painter who I have only mentioned once or twice in all those years, Charles Demuth. His coloration in his Precisionist paintings were a big influence on my early work and examining them again always refreshes me.

And I feel the need to be refreshed.

I’ve been a fan of Charles Demuth since the first time I saw his work.  He was considered a part of the Precisionist movement of the 20’s, along with painters such as Charles Sheeler and Joseph Stella among many others, with his paintings of buildings and poster-like graphics such as this painting, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold. He was also one of the prominent watercolorists of his time and while they are beautiful and deserve praise in their own right, it’s his buildings that draw me in.

Demuth’s work has a tight graphic quality but still feels painterly to me. There’s still the feel of the artist’s hand in his work which to me is a great quality. There are photorealist painters out there whose craftsmanship I can really admire but who are so precise that they lose thatdemuth-my-egypt feel of having the artist’s hand in the work.

I like seeing the imperfection of the artist. The first time I saw one of the Ocean Park paintings from artist Richard Diebenkorn, it wasn’t the composition or color that excited me.  It was the sight of several bristles from his brush embedded in the surface. To me, that was a thrill, seeing direct evidence of the process. The imperfect hand of the artist. I get that feeling from Demuth.

He also had a great sense of color and the harmony and interplay of colors. His colors are often soft yet strong, a result of his work with watercolors. His whites are never fully white and there are subtle shades everywhere, all contributing to the overall feel of the piece. His work always seems to achieve that sense of rightness I often mention.

His works, especially his paintings of buildings, have a very signature look, marked by a repeated perspective where he views the buildings above him. His paintings are usually fragments of the building’s upper reaches. There’s a sense of formality in this view, almost reverence. I don’t really know if he was merely entranced by the forms of industrial buildings or if he was making social commentary.

Whatever the case, do yourself a favor and take a look at the work of Charles Demuth.  It’s plain and simple good stuff…

Charles Demuth buildings-abstraction-lancaster-1931.jpg!LargeCharles_Demuth,_1930-1931,_tempera_and_plumbago_on_composition_board_-_Dallas_Museum_of_Art_-_DSC04883



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