About This Artwork

Charles Demuth
American, 1883–1935

Business, 1921

Oil and graphite on canvas
51 × 61.5 cm (20 × 24 1/4 in.)
Signed and dated lower right: Demuth / 1921

Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949.529

In 1921 Charles Demuth returned to his native Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and began painting its industrial landscape. This starkly rectilinear composition depicts a building head-on. In choosing a flat subject that mimics the surface of the canvas, Demuth embraced the modernist ideal of unifying form and content. A member of the Dadaist circle in New York, Demuth also added a touch of characteristic Dada irreverence to his picture, painting a calendar onto the building’s windows to highlight the inherent repetition and boredom of modern business. At his death, Demuth bequeathed Business to his long-time friend and supporter Georgia O’Keeffe.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings Showing the Later Tendencies in Art, April 16-May 15, 1921, p. 12, cat. 96.

New York, Steinway Hall, 119 W. 57th St., Machine-Age Exposition, May 16-28, 1927, p. 28, cat. 347.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, History of an American: Alfred Stieglitz, 291 and After, July 1-November 1, 1944, p. 36, cat. 287.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Stieglitz: His Collection, June 10-August 31, 1947, cat. 19.

Art Institute of Chicago, Alfred Stieglitz: His Photographs and Collection, February 2-29, 1948, no cat.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Charles Demuth, March 7-June 11, 1950, pp. 75, 92, cat. 112 (ill.); traveled to Detroit Institute of Arts, October 1-29, 1950, Coral Gables, Florida, University of Miami, November 20-December 12, 1950, Winnipeg Art Gallery, December 28, 1950-January 18, 1951, Williamstown, Mass., Williams College, February 3-24, 1950, Newark, Del., University of Delaware, March 10-31, 1951, Oberlin College, April 14-May 5, 1951, Buffalo, Albright Art Gallery, May 19-June 9, 1951 (New York only).

Art Galleries, University of California, Santa Barbara, Charles Demuth: The Mechanical Encrusted on the Living, October 5-November 14, 1971, pp. 55, 83, cat. 80 (ill.); traveled to University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, November 22, 1971-January 3, 1972, Washington, D.C., Phillips Collection, January 19-February 29, 1972, Utica, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, March 19-April 16, 1972.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Modern: Charles Demuth of Lancaster, July 16-September 11, 1983, p. 48, cat. 20 (ill.); traveled to Lancaster, Pa., Heritage Center of Lancaster County, October 1-November 13, 1983, and Pittsburgh, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, November 23, 1983-January 22, 1984.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Charles Demuth, October 15, 1987-January 17, 1988, p. 158, cat. 70 (ill.); traveled to Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February 25-April 24, 1988, Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Museum of Art, May 8-July 10, 1988, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, August 7-October 2, 1988.

Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, American Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1913-1993, May 8-July 25, 1993, p. 479, cat. 44; traveled to London, Royal Academy of Arts and the Saatchi Gallery, September 16-December 12, 1993.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Dada: 1915-1923, November 20, 1996-March 2, 1997.

Paris, Musée d'Orsay, Alfred Stieglitz and His Circle: Modernity in New York (1905–1930), October 18, 2004–January 16, 2005; traveled to Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, February 10-May 17, 2005 (Paris only).

Lille, France, Lille Métropole musée d'art moderne, d'art contemporain et d'art brut, The Magical City, September 19, 2012-January 13, 2013.

Publication History

S. Lane Faison, Jr., "Fact and Art in Charles Demuth," Magazine of Art, 43, no. 4 (April 1950), p. 128.

Emily Farnham, "Charles Demuth: His Life, Psychology and Works" (Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1959), vol. 2, pp. 568-69, no. 400.

Alvord L. Eiseman, "A Study of the Development of an Artist: Charles Demuth" (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1975), vol. 2, pp. 357-58, ill. no. 213.

Alvord L. Eiseman, Charles Demuth (New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1982), pp. 17, 21, 25.

Richard Guy Wilson, Dianne H. Pilgrim, and Dickran Tashjian, The Machine Age in America, 1918-1941, exh. cat. (Brooklyn Museum, 1986), p. 234.

Betsy Fahlman, "Charles Demuth's Paintings of Lancaster Architecture: New Discoveries and Observations," Arts Magazine, 61, no. 7 (March 1987), pp. 24, 28-29, fig. 21.

Karen Lucic, Charles Sheeler and the Cult of the Machine (London: Reaktion Books, 1991), p. 72, fig. 28.

James M. Dennis, Renegade Regionalists: The Modern Independence of Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry (Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998), pp. 208, 210 (ill.).

Celeste Connor, Democratic Visions: Art and Theory of the Stieglitz Circle, 1924-1934 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), pp. 145-48, fig. 32.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 33.

Ownership History

The artist; bequeathed to Georgia O'Keeffe, Abiquiu, N.M., and New York, N.Y., 1935; given by Georgia O'Keeffe to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1949.

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