Artwork Title: I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold

I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, 1928

Charles Demuth

Artwork Title: I Saw the Figure 5 in GoldArtwork Title: I Saw the Figure 5 in GoldArtwork Title: I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold
Robert Hughes described Demuth’s painting, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928, from the Met), as the ‘one picture so famous that practically every American who looks at art knows it.’ Made in 1928 and dedicated to the poet William Carlos Williams, the Figure 5, was one of a series of symbolist ‘poster-portraits’ which Demuth made of friends and fellow artists. Consisting of an enormous, stylized ‘5’ that occupies the entire picture plane and painted in bold colors on wallboard, the painting evokes new styles of advertising that were multiplying in American cities in the 1920s – a remarkable anticipation of Pop art later in the century. [] I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold was inspired by the poem, “The Great Figure,” written by Demuth’s friend, William Carlos Williams: Among the rain and lights I saw the figure 5 in gold on a red firetruck moving tense unheeded to gong clangs siren howls and wheels rumbling through the dark city. Williams’ poetry is deliberately straightforward, but Demuth’s painting is complicated. You really must know the poem to decode the painting. The setting is a tunnel-like street, which is flanked by sidewalks and buildings. Much of this backdrop is gray and black, but for the illuminated shop windows and globular streetlamps on both sides. The fire engine dominates the middle of the composition and although its form is abstracted we can recognize it by its red color. We can see the truck’s ladder on the right, and a long bar stretches across the bottom of the truck, which resembles an axle with two wheels or roaring sirens. The little curved lines that radiate from those sirens or wheels can indicate sound, motion, or both.... (
Uploaded on Jul 21, 2016 by Juan Jose Hoyos Quiles

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