Exhibitions/ Art Object
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I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold

Artist:
Charles Demuth (American, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 1883–1935 Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
Date:
1928
Medium:
Oil, graphite, ink, and gold leaf on paperboard (Upson board)
Dimensions:
35 1/2 x 30 in. (90.2 x 76.2 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949
Accession Number:
49.59.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 902
Demuth completed eight abstract portraits between 1924 and 1929 as tributes to modern American artists, writers, and performers. Though not a physical likeness, Demuth created this portrait of his friend, the poet and physician William Carlos Williams, using imagery from Williams’s poem "The Great Figure," which evokes the sights and sounds of a fire engine speeding down the street. The intersecting lines, repeated "5," round forms of the numbers, lights, street lamp, and blaring sirens of the red fire engine together infuse the painting with a vibrant, urban energy. Demuth derived the title from the poem, which reads:
Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
firetruck
moving
tense
unheeded
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city
Inscription: Signed (lower left): C.D.; inscribed (lower center): W. C. W.; signed, dated, and inscribed (verso): I saw the Figure 5 in Gold/ W. Carlos W/ C Demuth '28
the artist (1928–d. 1935; his bequest to O'Keeffe); Georgia O'Keeffe, New York (1935–48; her gift as part of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection to MMA)

Intimate Gallery, New York. "Charles Demuth: Five Paintings," April 29–May 18, 1929, brochure (as "I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold – William Carlos Williams," 1927).

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Paintings by 19 Living Americans," December 13, 1929–January 12, 1930, no. 3.

An American Place, New York. "Charles Demuth: Retrospective Exhibition Including Latest Work–Watercolors–Drawings–Oil Paintings," April 14–May 11, 1931, no catalogue.

An American Place, New York. "Impromptu group exhibition of Dove, Marin, O'Keeffe, Demuth, Hartley," May 16–June 14, 1932, no catalogue.

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Abstract Painting in America," February 12–March 22, 1935, no. 30 (lent by the artist).

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Charles Demuth Memorial Exhibition," December 15, 1937–January 16, 1938, no. 92 (lent by Georgia O'Keeffe).

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "This is Our City: An Exhibition of Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings, Prints, Presented for the Greater New York Fund," March 11–April 13, 1941, no. 18.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. "History of an American, Alfred Stieglitz: '291' and After, Selections from the Stieglitz Collection," July 1–November 1, 1944, no. 297.

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Alfred Stieglitz Exhibition: His Collection," June 10–August 31, 1947, no catalogue (checklist no. 16).

Art Institute of Chicago. "Alfred Stieglitz: His Photographs and His Collection," February 2–29, 1948, extended to March 7, 1948, no catalogue (checklist no. 25).

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Charles Demuth," March 7–June 11, 1950, no. 144.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "20th Century Painters: A Special Exhibition of Oils, Water Colors and Drawings Selected from the Collections of American Art in the Metropolitan Museum," June 16–October 29, 1950, unnum. brochure (p. 5).

New York. Wildenstein. "A Special Exhibition of Paintings by American and French Modern Masters," May 4–28, 1955, brochure no. 8.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Three Centuries of American Painting," April 9–October 17, 1965, unnum. checklist.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–June 1, 1971, no. 393.

Moscow. State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. "Representations of America," December 15, 1977–February 15, 1978, no catalogue.

Leningrad. State Hermitage Museum. "Representations of America," March 15–May 15, 1978, no catalogue.

Minsk, Belarus. Palace of Art. "Representations of America," June 15–August 15, 1978, no catalogue.

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "William Carlos Williams and the American Scene, 1920–1940," December 12, 1978–February 4,1979, unnumbered cat. (pl. 4).

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Charles Demuth," October 15, 1987–January 17,1988, unnumbered cat. (pl. 89).

Berlin. Martin-Gropius-Bau. "Amerikanische Kunst im 20. Jahrhundert: Malerei und Plastik; 1913–1993," May 8–July 25, 1993, no. 45.

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "American Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1913–1993," September 16–December 12, 1993, no. 45.

New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. "Charles Demuth: Poster Portraits, 1923–1929," September 17, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 68.

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "The American Century: Art and Culture, 1900–2000. Part 1: 1900–1950," April 23–August 22, 1999, unnumbered cat. (fig. 318).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe," October 13, 2011–January 2, 2012, no. 60.

"New York Season." Art Digest 3 (May 1, 1929), pp. 17-18.

"Exhibitions in the New York Galleries: Charles Demuth, Intimate Gallery." Art News 27 (May 4, 1929), p. 14.

Royal Cortissoz. "Three Exhibitions: Georg Kolbe, Arthur B. Davies and Charles Demuth." New York Herald Tribune (May 15, 1929), p. 10.

Edward Alden Jewell. "Now It Can Be Told: The Paintings by Demuth." New York Times (May 5, 1929), p. 124.

Royal Cortissoz. "Charles Demuth." New York Herald Tribune (April 16, 1931), section 8, p. 8.

Ruth Green Harris. "Seen in the Galleries: Some of the Current Exhibitions that Attract Attention as the Season Wanes - Two Englishmen: Demuth, Segrelles." New York Times (April 19, 1931), p. 136.

Henry McBride. "Demuth Water Colors on View: Shown in an American Place They Revive Memories of Henry James." New York Sun (April 18, 1931).

"Demuth's Retrospective Show." New York Times (April 14, 1931), p. 30.

Royal Cortissoz. "The Abstractionists Show Their Mettle." New York Herald Tribune (February 17, 1935), p. 10.

"Charles Demuth, Noted Artist, Dies." New York Times (October 25, 1935), p. D22.

Royal Cortissoz. "The Delicate Art of the Late Chas. Demuth." New York Herald Tribune (December 19, 1937), p. 8.

Martha Davidson. "Demuth, Architect of Painting: The Whitney's Complete Show Permits a New Appraisal." Art News 36 (December 18, 1937), p. 7.

Henry McBride. "Charles Demuth Memorial Show." New York Sun (December 18, 1937), p. 14.

Dorothy Grafly. "The Fathering of Modern Art in America." The Studio 130 (November 1945).

"Acquired by the Metropolitan." New York Times (July 10, 1949), p. X6, ill.

Robert Beverly Hale. 100 American Painters of the 20th Century: Works Selected from the Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1950, pp. xiv, 75, ill. (color).

Margaret Breuning. "Demuth's Fastidious Taste and Magical Craft." Art Digest 24 (March 15, 1950), p. 17, ill.

William Carlos Williams. The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams. New York, 1951, p. 152.

Emily Farnham. "Charles Demuth: His Life, Psychology, and Works." PhD diss., Ohio State University, Columbus, 1959, vol. 1, pp. 127-28, 337, 339-40, 402, fig. 28; vol. 2, pp. 616-17, no. 515; vol. 3, pp. 989-90, as "Poster Portrait: I Saw the Figure Five in Gold [Hommage to William Carlos Williams]".

William H. Pierson Jr. and Martha Davidson, ed. Arts of the United States: A Pictorial Survey. New York, 1960, p. 338, fig. 3071.

Art in America 48 (Fall 1960), p. 37, ill.

Henry Geldzahler. American Painting in the Twentieth Century. New York, 1965, pp. 135-38, ill. p. 136.

A. L. Chanin. Art Guide/ New York. New York, 1965, pp. 98-99, no. 147, ill.

Henry Geldzahler. "Numbers in Time: Two American Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 23 (April 1965), pp. 295-98, ill.

Emily Genauer. Charles Demuth of Lancaster. Exh. cat., William Penn Memorial Museum. Harrisburg, 1966, unpaginated.

H. H. Arnason. History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York, [1968], p. 420, fig. 191 (color).

Richard McLanathan. The American Tradition in the Arts. New York, 1968, pp. 426–27, ill.

Bram Dijkstra. Cubism, Stieglitz, and the Early Poetry of William Carlos Williams: The Hieroglyphics of a New Speech. Princeton, 1969, pp. 78, 172, pl. 7.

Barbara Novak. American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism, and the American Experience. New York, 1969, pp. 225-26, 273-74, fig. 15-13.

George Heard Hamilton. "The Alfred Stieglitz Collection." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), pp. 386, 389.

George M. Cohen. A History of American Art. New York, 1971, pp. 177-78, pl. 24.

Emily Farnham. Charles Demuth: Behind a Laughing Mask. Norman, Okla., 1971, pp. 101-2, pl. 30-a.

David Gebhard and Phyllis Plous. Charles Demuth: The Mechanical Encrusted on the Living. Exh. cat., University of Santa Barbara Art Galleries. Santa Barbara, 1971, pp. 20, 70, 85, no. 108, fig. 108.

Nora B. Beeson. Guide to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1972, pp. 280-81, fig. 10.

Vincent Price. The Vincent Price Treasury of American Painting. Waukesha, Wisc., 1972, p. 214, ill.

Sam Hunter and John Jacobus. American Art of the 20th Century: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York, 1973, p. 140, fig. 238.

Marshall B. Davidson. The American Heritage History of the Artists' America. New York, 1973, p. 332, ill.

John Tancock. "The Oscillating Influence of Marcel Duchamp." Art News 72 (September 1973), p. 27, ill.

Abraham A. Davidson. The Story of American Painting. New York, 1974, pp. 56, 58–59, pl. 48.

Alvord L. Eiseman. "A Study of the Development of an Artist: Charles Demuth." PhD diss., New York University, School of Education, 1974, p. 527, fig. 311.

Dickran Tashjian. Skyscraper Primitives: Dada and the American Avant-Garde, 1910-1925. Middletown, Conn., 1975, pp. 211-13, ill.

Henry Geldzahler. "A Bicentennial Treasury: American Masterpieces from the Metropolitan." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 33 (Winter 1975–76), p. 243, ill.

"Shapes of Industry: First Images in American Art (Terry Dintenfass Gallery, New York)." ArtNews 75 (January 1976), p. 121, ill.

Martin Gardner. The Incredible Dr. Matrix. New York, 1976, cover ill.

John Wilmerding. American Art. Harmondsworth and New York, 1976, pp. 180-81, 223, 265, pl. 225.

Abraham A. Davidson. "Demuth's Poster Portraits." Artforum 17 (November 1978), pp. 54, 56-57, ill.

Hilton Kramer. "Art View: A Poet's Taste in Painting at the Whitney." New York Times (December 24, 1978), p. D23, ill.

A. Hyatt Mayor. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Favorite Paintings. New York, 1979, pp. 102-3, ill.

Thomas E. Norton. "The N'th Whoopee of Sight." Portfolio: The Magazine of the Visual Arts 1, no. 3 (August-September 1979), pp. 20, 26, ill.

Jan Thompson. "Picabia and His Influence on American Art, 1913–17." Art Journal 39 (Fall 1979), pp. 17-18.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, p. 513, no. 920, ill. p. 508.

Alvord L. Eiseman. Charles Demuth. New York, 1982, pp. 20, 76-77, pl. 36.

Fanfare, a Magazine for the Serious Collector of Records (September-October 1982), cover ill.

Indiana's Indianas: A Twenty-Year Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture from the Collection of Robert Indiana. Exh. cat., William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum. Rockland, Maine, 1982, p. 6, fig. 5.

William S. Lieberman. 20th Century Masters: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D. C., 1982, p. 43.

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 1983, p. 432, ill.

"William Carlos Williams Commemorative Issue." Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey 80 (September 1983), p. 702, fig. 1.

Betsy Fahlman. Pennsylvania Modern: Charles Demuth of Lancaster. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1983, p. 42.

William Kloss. Treasures from the National Museum of American Art. Exh. cat., Seattle Art Museum. Washington, D.C., 1985, p. 174.

Pontus Hulten. Futurism and Futurisms. Exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi. New York, 1986, p. 464.

Edward A. Aiken. "'I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold': Charles Demuth's Emblematic Portrait of William Carlos Williams." Art Journal 46 (Autumn 1987), pp. 178-84.

Andrea O. Dean. "He Was an Acrobat on the Leading Edge of Jazz Age Art." Smithsonian 18, no. 7 (October 1987), pp. 58, 66, ill.

Robert Hughes. "Art: Charles Demuth amid the Silos." Time (December 7, 1987), p. 91, ill.

William C. Agee. "Demuth at the Whitney." New Criterion 6 (June 1988), p. 42.

Mark Stevens. "Art: The Poet and the Engineer." Newsweek (January 4, 1988), p. 55.

Jonathan Weinberg. "Demuth and Difference." Art in America 76 (April 1988), p. 192.

Wanda M. Corn. In the American Grain: The Billboard Poetics of Charles Demuth. Poughkeepsie, N. Y., 1991, pp. 1–2, 5–11, 16, 36, 40–42, 45, fig. 1.

John K. Howat, Victor Koshkin-Youritzin, and Stephen Rubin. American Watercolors from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Seattle Art Museum. New York, 1991, p. 31.

Jonathan Weinberg. Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the First American Avant-Garde. New Haven and London, 1993, pp. 114, 116-17, fig. 47.

Ian Gibson et al. Salvador Dali: The Early Years. Ed. Michael Raeburn. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. London, 1994, p. 184, pl. 116.

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed. (1st ed., 1983). New York, 1994, p. 441, no. 18, ill. (color).

Patricia McDonnell. Dictated by Life: Marsden Hartley's German Paintings and Robert Indiana's Hartley Elegies. Exh. cat., Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota. Minneapolis, 1995, p. 78, ill.

Lowery S. Sims and Sabine Rewald. Still Life: The Object in American Art, 1915-1995, Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Marsh Art Gallery, Richmond, Va. New York, 1997, pp. 16, 19, fig. 10.

H. W. Janson. History of Art. 5th ed. New York, 1997, p. 804, fig. 1055.

H. Harvard Arnason. History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. Ed. Marla Prather. 4th rev. ed. (1st ed., 1968). New York, 1998, pp. 412, 419–20, pl. 217.

James M. Dennis. Renegade Regionalists: The Modern Independence of Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry. Madison, 1998, pp. 202–3, 205, fig. 120.

Wanda M. Corn. The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935. Berkeley, 1999, pp. 192, 200–209, 211, 223–24, 226, 228, 234–36, 246, 357–59, 383 n. 40, p. 384 n. 52, fig. 169.

Charles Brock in Sarah Greenough. Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D. C., 2000, pp. 370, 372, 522 nn. 29-30, fig. 106.

Bruce Kellner, ed. Letters of Charles Demuth, American Artist, 1883–1935. Philadelphia, 2000, pp. 81, 111, 113–14, 116, 125 n. 1, pp. 131–32, 134, 179.

Post-War (Evening Sale). Christie's, New York. November 15, 2000, p. 86, under no. 27, fig. 1.

James Aulich and John Lynch, ed. Critical Kitaj: Essays on the Work of R. B. Kitaj. New Brunswick, 2001, p. 9.

Vivien Green Fryd. Art and the Crisis of Marriage: Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keeffe. Chicago, 2003, pp. 158–59, fig. 96.

Shearer West. Portraiture. Oxford and New York, 2004, p. 199, fig. 124.

Karen M. Cardozo. "Essaying Democracy: The Post/Modern Intertexts of Kingston, Rodriguez, and Williams." William Carlos Williams Review 27 (Spring 2007), p. 19.

Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. Christie's, New York. May 24, 2007, under no. 25.

George Monteiro. "Carlos Williams, Actor." William Carlos Williams Review 27 (Spring 2007), pp. 69-70.

Daniel Morris. "The Erotics of Close Reading: Williams, Demuth and 'The Crimson Cyclamen'." William Carlos Williams Review 27 (Spring 2007), pp. 66-67.

Betsy Fahlman. Chimneys and Towers: Charles Demuth's Late Paintings of Lancaster. Exh. cat., Amon Carter Museum. Fort Worth, 2007, pp. 90, 93, 174, 179 n. 4, p. 197, no. 44, fig. 44.

Susan Chan Egan. "Research Note: Painting Signs, Demuth's Portrait of Charles Duncan." American Art 22 (Fall 2008), p. 90.

Judith H. Dobrzynski. "Masterpiece, Anatomy of a Classic: Where Paint and Poetry Meet." Wall Street Journal (July 10-11, 2010).

Postwar and Contemporary Art. Christie's, New York. May 11, 2010, pp. 90-91, under no. 47, ill.

Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, ed. American Moderns on Paper: Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth. New Haven, Conn., 2010, p. 73.

Sharyn R. Udall with Nancy Weekly. Sensory Crossovers: Synesthesia in American Art. Exh. cat., Albuquerque Museum. Albuquerque, 2010, pp. 35-37, fig. 23.

Charles Brock, Nancy Anderson, and Harry Cooper. American Modernism: The Shein Collection. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2010, pp. 45, 129.

Lisa Mintz Messinger in Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Lisa Mintz Messinger. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, pp. 102–3, 257–58, no. 60, ill. (color), fig. 17 (installation photo of Exh. New York 1950).

Isabelle Duvernois and Rachel Mustalish in Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Lisa Mintz Messinger. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, p. 102.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, p. 416, ill. (color).



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