Charles Demuth 
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Apples (Peaches, A Double-Sided Work), c. 1925

Roof and Tree Forms, 1919

In the first decades of the twentieth century, Charles Demuth and John Marin were among the most talented and innovative watercolorists in America. Art dealer Alfred Stieglitz was closely tied with Marin, who, along with Georgia O’Keeffe, was one of the few artists whose work sold briskly in a difficult climate for modern art. Because Stieglitz viewed Demuth’s work as too competitive with that of Marin, Demuth went instead with New York’s other prominent gallerist for modern art, Charles Daniel. Daniel presented a number of one-man exhibitions of Demuth’s work, and produced sales to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, other institutions, and important collectors, but Demuth still longed for the prestige of being a member of Stieglitz’s inner circle. It was not until 1925, long after Charles Daniel’s gallery had closed, that Stieglitz included several of Demuth’s works in a seminal exhibition, Seven Americans, at the one-room Intimate Gallery. The present watercolor is one of a series of works executed in the early- to mid-1920s that focus on fruit, vegetables, and flowers. Contemporary critics noted the jewel-like qualities of these works and their technical brilliance. One anonymous writer in Art News noted that these still lifes were “carefully compounded studies of flowers and fruits, wrought in his particular way of condensed water coloring much like the precious jade and crystal carvings of the Chinese.”