Charles Demuth (1883-1935)
Charles Demuth (1883-1935)
Charles Demuth (1883-1935)
Charles Demuth (1883-1935)
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Fields of Vision: The Private Collection of Artists Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason
CHARLES DEMUTH (1883-1935)


CHARLES DEMUTH (1883-1935)
signed and dated 'C. Demuth ·1918-Feb-·' (lower center)
watercolor and pencil on paper
14 x 10 in. (35.6 x 25.4 cm.)
Executed in 1918.
Alfred Stieglitz, New York, acquired directly from the artist
Mrs. A. Stewart Walker, Southampton, acquired from the above, by 1946
Melville Cane, New York
Estate of the above, 1980
Terry Dintenfass Gallery, New York, acquired from the above
William C. Janns, Sun Valley, acquired from the above, 1981
Sotheby's, New York, 6 June 1997, lot 125, sold by the above
Zabriskie Gallery, Inc., New York
Acquired from the above by the late owners, 2002
E. Farnham, Charles Demuth: His Life, Psychology and Works, vol. ii, Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 1959, p. 525, no. 298.
A.L. Eiseman, A Study of the Development of an Artist, Charles Demuth, Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1981, pp. 445, 445n459.
Richard York Gallery, An American Gallery, vol. III, 1987, n.p., no. 20, illustrated.
(Possibly) New York, Terry Dintenfass Gallery, Stieglitz: A Memoir/Biography, December 1982-January 1983.
San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Lincoln, Massachusetts, De Cordova and Dana Museum and Park; Austin, University of Texas, Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery; Evanston, Illinois, Mary and Leigh Block Gallery; Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College Museum of Art; Akron, Ohio, Akron Art Museum; Madison, Wisconsin, Madison Art Center, American Realism: Twentieth-Century Drawings and Watercolors, 1986-87, pp. 74, 92, 103, 145, no. 61 (illustrated).
San Francisco, California, John Berggruen Gallery, American Modernism: Paintings and from the Collection of William and Glenn Janns, September 12-October 12, 1996, p. 35, no. 17.

Brought to you by

Paige Kestenman
Paige Kestenman Vice President, Specialist

Lot Essay

The present work was a gift from Emily Mason to Wolf Kahn.

Charles Demuth was endlessly fascinated by the sensual, natural beauty to be found within the simplicity of a flower. Inspired by the flora in the local gardens and markets of his Lancaster, Pennsylvania, community, Demuth’s still-life paintings such as Cyclamen represent the most immediate and intimate segment of his career. His watercolors, as Emily Farnham describes, “are indeed remarkable in the way in which they demonstrate the artist's capacity to extract the essential character of a flower.” (Charles Demuth: His Life, Psychology and Works, vol. i, Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 1959, p. 295)

As in many of his works from this period, in Cyclamen the artist creates an oval composition, with the twisting leaves and stems creating a sense of verticality. Each blossom is highlighted by a concentrated center of red, with each flower positioned so as to be unique among the bouquet. Using a wash-and-blotter technique, the leaves have been given texture that allows them to almost shimmer with light, adding a more natural element to their clean-lined forms. Yet, through his presentation of the cyclamen against a blank background, Demuth decontextualizes the flowers from their natural environment. As James E. Breslin writes, “One striking feature of Demuth’s watercolors is the dramatic use he makes of the white paper…these objects are abstracted, lifted from any context, for heightened aesthetic contemplation; the space they dwell in is an artistic space.” (“William Carlos Williams and Charles Demuth: Cross Fertilization in the Arts,” Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 6, no. 2, April 1977, p. 251)

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