Lot 12
  • 12

Charles Demuth 1883 - 1935

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 USD
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Description

  • Charles Demuth
  • Roses
  • Signed C. Demuth and dated 1926 (center left)
  • Watercolor and pencil on paper
  • 17 7/8 by 11 7/8 inches
  • (45.4 by 30.2 cm)

Provenance

C.W. Kraushaar Galleries, New York
George Dyer, Norfolk, Connecticut, 1934
Private Collection (by descent and sold: Sotheby's, New York, December 1, 1988, lot 240, illustrated)
Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman

Exhibited

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Demuth Memorial Exhibition, December 1937-January 1938, no. 121 (as Roses and Daisies)

Literature

Richard C. Weyand scrapbooks, no. W432
Emily Edna Farnham, Charles Demuth:  His Life, Psychology and Works, Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 1959, vol. II, no. 495, p. 608

Catalogue Note

Although he is arguably best known as a painter of American factories and other icons of the Machine Age, Charles Demuth engaged with the genre of still life throughout his career. Executed in 1926, Roses is not only an exquisite example of this preoccupation, but also demonstrates Demuth’s ability to transform this traditional subject with his distinctive style. In Roses, the artist beautifully captures the effects of light and shadow on the delicate surfaces of the blossoms he depicts. The perspective he adopts, however, is strikingly modern: eschewing conventional proportion and spatial depth, Demuth instead portrays the flowers from above and fills the picture plane almost to entirety with their forms.

Demuth began to work primarily with the medium of watercolor upon his return from study in France in 1914. The style of execution Roses displays demonstrates the artist’s masterful manipulation of watercolor: skillfully controlling the amount of water added to the medium, he juxtaposes areas of deeply saturated and vibrant pigment with translucent washes of color and passages he has mottled or left entirely blank, creating a surface that is rich and varied. The precise contouring and tight execution he adopts here is characteristic of his still lifes as Demuth developed his precisionist aesthetic in the 1920s. This execution contrasts dynamically with the fluidity that is inherent to the watercolor, ultimately contributing to the striking sense of tension the composition exudes.
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