CHARLES DEMUTH (1883-1935)
CHARLES DEMUTH (1883-1935)
CHARLES DEMUTH (1883-1935)
CHARLES DEMUTH (1883-1935)
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Modern American Masterworks from the Ted Shen Collection
CHARLES DEMUTH (1883-1935)

Apples and Pears

CHARLES DEMUTH (1883-1935)
Apples and Pears
signed and dated 'C Demuth 1933' (lower center)
watercolor and pencil on paper
10 x 13 3/4 in. (25.4 x 34.9 cm.)
Executed in 1933.
The artist.
Robert Locher, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, friend of the above, bequest from the above, 1935.
Samuel Wagstaff, Jr., New York, acquired from the above, 1948.
Davis Galleries, New York.
Helen W. and Robert M. Benjamin, New York, acquired from the above, 1963.
Sotheby’s, New York, 22 May 1996, lot 131, sold by the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
E. Farnham, Charles Demuth: His Life, Psychology and Works, vol. 2, Ph.D dissertation, Ohio State University, 1959, p. 620, no. 523.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, William Penn Memorial Museum, Charles Demuth of Lancaster, September 24-November 6, 1966, n.p., no. 126.
New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Art Gallery, The Helen W. and Robert M. Benjamin Collection, May 4-June 18, 1967, pp. 29, 87, no. 39, illustrated.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

As in all his most successful watercolors, in Apples and Pears Charles Demuth creates a picture of vivid beauty, captured with crisp draftsmanship and a sure sense of color. Executed in 1933, the present work employs a purposefully spare and geometric technique that adds a Precisionist edge while smartly capturing the rounded, organic forms of the fruit. As Barbara Haskell describes, “Demuth captured the reflection of light as it played over the rounded surfaces of fruits and vegetables, thereby creating voluptuous three-dimensional shapes reminiscent of those in Cézanne’s still lifes...Demuth continued to blot the wet watercolor medium in order to create texture, but now he also became more inclined to allow pencil-drawn silhouettes remain free of color." (Charles Demuth, New York, 1988, p. 141)

Demuth’s play with the blank white of the paper is particularly skillful in Apples and Pears. Beyond the masterful highlights within the fruit themselves, monochromatic gradations intersect in sharp, angular lines to capture the reflective white plate upon which the still life sits, as well as the various shadows the arrangement casts on the surrounding environment. The beautifully preserved pigments of red and yellow-green gain further radiance through these tonal surroundings—particularly the areas of the background left purposefully blank of any color. As epitomized by the present work, Thomas E. Norton writes, “By the late 1920s Charles Demuth can be said to have not only mastered the art of still life painting, but to have combined in these works delicacy and strength, formalism, evanescence and subtlety, with seeming fortuitousness." (Homage to Charles Demuth: Still Life Painter of Lancaster, Ephrata, Pennsylvania, 1978, p. 38)

A previous owner of the present work, Samuel Wagstaff Jr., was a New York art collector and curator as well as the the lifelong partner, mentor and benefactor of the artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

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