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Monday, June 30, 2014

Charles Demuth

"Paintings must be looked at and looked at and looked at. . . . No writing, no talking, no singing, no dancing will explain them."

American Artist
1883 - 1935

My Egypt by Charles Demuth
One of the lessons I learned early in my career is not to explain my poetry to others.  If I had to explain it, then either I did not succeed or the reader failed to understand.  I would attend writer's groups where we would share our work and then the group would critique it.  Some writers would keep trying to explain their poems if they didn't feel the group grasped the meaning of the poem.  If you feel you have to explain your poem to the reader, then you failed to write a successful poem.  

I think the same is true of any art form.  You don't need to explain your work.  A painter shouldn't explain the meaning of his painting.  The viewer has the responsibility in the communication exchange to study the work to the best of his ability just as the reader also has some responsibility.  It is a two way street.  

Charles Demuth was born in Lancaster, PA where he lived and worked for much of his life.  He suffered from both lameness and severe diabetes for most of his life.  He graduated from the Franklin and Marshall Academy, an all-male prep school, and studied art at the Drexel Institute and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  While Demuth studied and painted in Philadelphia, New York, Paris and Bermuda, he created most of his mature work in a second floor studio in the house he shared with his mother in Lancaster.  The house is now the Demuth Museum.

Artists often influence each other.  In this case, the painter, Charles Demuth, was inspired by a poem of his friend, William Carlos Williams.

The Figure 5 In Gold (1928)
Inspired by a poem of
William Carlos Williams:
The Great Figure

The Great Figure
by William Carlos Williams

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.