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Self portrait, 1907
Many Lancaster residents may not recognize the importance of Charles Demuth to the art world. In February 2010, his work was displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, right beside paintings by the famous French artist Paul Cezanne. There is of course a connection between Demuth and Holy Trinity, but first some background:
Charles Demuth was born on November 8, 1883 in Lancaster, the only child of Ferdinand and Augusta Demuth. He suffered from Perthes disease as a child, a condition that causes a painful deformation of the hip joint, which confined him to bed rest for nearly a year. During this time his family encouraged his artistic development with private lessons from local artist. The illness left him with a marked limp, and required him to use a cane.
“Lancaster (In the Province No. 2)” by Demuth
After attending Franklin and Marshall Academy, Demuth studied art in Philadelphia; first at Drexel Institute and later at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He also made several visits to Europe, acquainting himself with the Old Masters and the work of his European contemporaries who were exploring a new, modernist art. He was a master watercolorist and a pioneer of the precisionist style. Ken Johnson wrote in the New York Times “…. you will discover few watercolors more beautiful than those of Charles Demuth”. He influenced numerous artists in subsequent generation, including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Indiana, and Ed. Ruscha. Charles Demuth suffered from diabetes and died in 1935. His home was at 120 East King Street, which today serves as the Demuth Museum.
Renowned art critic Ken Johnson of the New York Times
It is sometimes stated that the mariners star (see below) on the ceiling of the lantern area of our steeple was first painted there by Charles Demuth, but there is no record of that event, and most people today feel that occurrence was unlikely due to his frail health. Perhaps he designed the star, but we don’t know that either. What we do know is that he was baptized at Trinity, confirmed in 1901, communed regularly through 1905, and sporadically until 1915. His mother funded the stained glass window of Micah (see below) located at the rear of the west balcony, and she also provided a generous sum of money to help maintain the steeple.
The Demuth family established the Demuth Tobacco Shop in 1770 at 114 East King Street. Until 2010 it had been the oldest business of its kind in continuous operation in the United States. The brick building behind Trinity’s memorial wall is the Demuth Snuff Mill.
Mariners star (left), and the Micah window (right)
One final connection relates to Henry Kepple Beck, the artist who painted our Resurrection mural in 1893. Henry’s mother was a distant cousin of Charles Demuth.
Lloyd E. Bull, Property Committee Chairperson
Picture link: “Red-roofed Houses” by Demuth