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)


CHARLES DEMUTH (1883-1935)
signed and dated 'C. Demuth. 1918-' (lower left)
watercolor and pencil on paper
10 x 14 in. (25.4 x 35.6 cm.)
Executed in 1918.
Victor Spark, New York.
Mrs. Jacob Rand, Long Island, New York.
Robert Carlen, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Meyer and Vivian Potamkin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, acquired from the above, 1957.
Sotheby’s, New York, 21 May 2003, lot 36, sold by the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
J.R. Mellow, “A Hundred Years of American Masters of Watercolor,” The New York Times, June 2, 1974, p. D19 (as Rooftops and Steeples).
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Twentieth Century American Painting and Sculpture from Philadelphia Private Collections, October 25-November 30, 1958, no. 4.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia Collects 20th Century, October 3-November 17, 1963, p. 12, illustrated.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, William Penn Memorial Museum, Charles Demuth of Lancaster, September 24-November 6, 1966, n.p., no. 69.
Akron, Ohio, The Akron Art Institute, Charles Demuth, April 16-May 12, 1968, n.p., no. 60.
Dallas, Texas, The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, The M.P. Potamkin Collection, January 28-March 8, 1970, n.p., no. 14, illustrated.
Santa Barbara, California, University of California, The Art Galleries; Berkeley, California, University of California, University Art Museum; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; Utica, New York, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Charles Demuth: The Mechanical Encrusted on the Living, October 5, 1971-April 16, 1972, p. 82, no. 54.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, William Penn Memorial Museum, An Alumnus Salutes Dickinson College 200th Anniversary (From the Collection of Meyer and Vivian Potamkin), November 1972-January 1973, pp. 28, 51, no. 40, illustrated.
Allentown, Pennsylvania, Allentown Art Museum, The City in American Painting, January 20-March 4, 1973, p. 12, illustrated.
New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, Ten Americans: Masters of Watercolor, May 16-June 30, 1974, no. 31, illustrated (as Rooftops and Steeples).
Huntington, New York, The Heckscher Museum, The Precisionist Painters—1916-1949: Interpretations of a Mechanical Age, July 7-August 20, 1978.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, American Art from the Collection of Vivian and Meyer P. Potamkin, June 10-October 1, 1989, p. 9.
Montclair, New Jersey, The Montclair Art Museum; West Palm Beach, Florida, Norton Gallery of Art; Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Museum of Art; Lincoln, Nebraska, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Precisionism in America: Reordering Reality, November 20, 1994-November 5, 1995, p. 150, no. 142 (as Rooftops [Provincetown]).

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

During the late 1910s Charles Demuth painted a series of Cubist explorations of rooftops and trees that are direct precursors to his later Precisionist masterpieces. In Rooftops of 1918, Demuth uses sharp diagonal lines to point the viewer’s eye to the center of the composition, while sinuous branches in the upper background contrast the hard-edged planes. Barbara Haskell explains, "Cézanne’s work offered Demuth a model for integrating angular forms with the kind of sensuous, organic shapes with which he had worked earlier. In this way he eased into Cubism, setting the biomorphic forms of trees and branches within a subtly shifting structure of ruler-drawn lines and planes." (Charles Demuth, New York, 1987, p. 126) This juxtaposition is imbued with an evanescent quality through Demuth’s skillful control of the watercolor medium. He blots some areas to create a mottled effect, and places grid lines in others, adding texture to the composition. These variances create depth and complexity, suggesting the effects of light and creating a work that is both delicate and arresting.

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