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Chimneys and Towers

Chimneys and Towers
Betsey Fahlman
Philadelphia : The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007
ND237 .D36 F28 2007

During an intense period beginning in 1927, Charles Demuth (1835-1935) executed seven ambitious paintings depicting industrial sites in his native Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The first painting was begun a few years after the artist began receiving injections of insulin for his diabetes - a treatment first administered in America only five years earlier - and the last was completed the year prior to his death from the disease. It is a profound fact that without the temporary restorative effects of insulin, Demuth would not have lived to create the masterpieces that are the focus of this publication.

Demuth's late architectural paintings were never exhibited together during the artist's lifetime, and only one of them sold before he died. But time would determine their importance. Demuth's unique style did not sacrifice painterly expression for exactitude, a nuance that set him apart from his Precisionist contemporaries. Today, his small body of masterpieces is recognized as one of the most notable artistic achievements of twentieth-century America, and Demuth himself is comfortably situated among America's preeminent modernist painters.

In her essay on his life and art, Betsey Fahlman unearths here many supporting illustrations never published before now. Her essay also reveals for the first time, drawing on previously unpublished correspondence, the central role collector Albert C. Barnes played in extending Demuth's life, for it was he - not Demuth's mother, as previously believed - who paid for the artist's treatments in the sanitarium.

Claire Barry contributes to the publication a pioneering technical study of Demuth's materials, support, and technique. Demuth was intriguingly reticent concerning the details of his working processes, whose clarity and control fascinated his contemporaries. He tended to work directly on his surfaces, making relatively few preliminary studies. Barry's essay, supported by detailed illustrations, reveals the intense thought processes of a working artist beneath the apparent order of these paintings.

Together, the two essays and more than 120 illustrations, which include a number of Demuth's sketches never before reproduced, explore the complex dynamics and dying creative energies of an artist at the end of his career.

Quoted from dustjacket.