The Demuth Museum was established in 1981 to preserve and promote the art of Charles Demuth (1883-1935). As a leader of the American Modernist movement, Demuth is best known as a pioneer of the Precisionist style and a master watercolorist. Demuth's Lancaster, Pennsylvania home, now the museum, provided both inspiration and sustenance, and functioned as Demuth's permanent studio location throughout his lifetime. Heralded as a leading light among early American modernist painters, Demuth distinguished himself from his contemporaries in his profoundly-felt renderings of his native Lancaster's factories, grain elevators and churches.
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Demuth's evolving style and pioneering artistic achievements, celebrated in his famous architectural works, are inseparable from his lifelong exploration and contributions in watercolor. Demuth suffered from diabetes, a debilitating disease that rendered him incapable of anything other than bed rest for periods of his life, and assisted his developments in watercolor, which was more suited to his lifestyle and was currying favor with the early modernists of the time. During the years 1914-1919, which are considered to be Demuth's most prolific, he utilized the free-flowing effects of the watercolor medium to capture his travels to New York and Provincetown. During these frequent excursions, he spent time with a group of companions, many of whom formed the cultural elite, and was exposed to the work of expatriate artists, often via exhibitions of European and American modern art in the galleries of Alfred Stieglitz. Despite his attachment to New York, Demuth consistently returned to Lancaster and painted most in his home studio. He preferred to interpret what he saw literally in his own backyard, including the vegetables and flowers that were so important in his agricultural city.
The Demuth Museum offers a wholly unique experience of Demuth's artistic life and groundbreaking works through its collections, exhibitions and educational programs. The museum's permanent collection contains forty Demuth works from throughout the artist's career, along with an extensive archive and library. Visitors to the museum can also enjoy the Demuth gardens, planted with many of the same flowers cultivated by the artist's mother and featured in the artist's renowned floral works. Historic buildings depicted in Demuth's architectural works can be seen just outside the artist's studio window and in the city beyond. The Demuth Tobacco Shop, the oldest operating shop of its kind in America, and other historic buildings of the Demuth Complex are all open to the public.