Charles Demuth

Five Watercolors by Charles Demuth

Painter Charles Demuth (1883-1935) was one of the earliest American artists to expose his gay identity through forthright, positive depictions of homosexual desire. As a leader of the American Modernist movement, Demuth was best known as a pioneer of the precisionist style* and as a master watercolorist.

Raised in a well-off merchant family, Demuth had the financial freedom to pursue his artistic vision without regard for public opinion concerning aesthetics or sexuality. Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he started painting when a childhood illness rendered him unable to walk. Charles studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where the realist tradition of former faculty member Thomas Eakins prevailed. Eakins was himself a painter of major works of homoerotic content.

In 1912, Charles began a relationship with Robert Locher, also from Lancaster, who was to become his life partner. After spending two years in Paris, the two men went to New York City, enjoying the bohemian lifestyle of Greenwich Village. They also embraced the summer artist colony of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where Demuth associated with leftist writers and artists committed to sexual liberation.

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