Featured Work of Art
Charles Demuth (American, 1883–1935)
I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, 1928
Oil on cardboard
35 1/2 x 30 in. (90.2 x 76.2 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.59.1)
Collection Area: Modern and Contemporary Art
Subject Areas: Visual Arts, English Language Arts, U.S. History
Grades: Middle School, High School
Topics/Themes: Identity, Artist Choices
Students will be able to
- identify ways artists convey personality in nonfigurative portraits;
- recognize similarities and differences in visual and verbal expression; and
- use text as a springboard for art making.
Visual Arts – Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
Visual Arts – Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
Visual Arts – Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
English Language Arts – Communication Skills
English Language Arts – Communication Strategies
English Language Arts – Applying Language Skills
U.S. History – Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America (1890–1930)
U.S. History – Era 8: The Great Depression and World War II (1929–1945)
Questions for Viewing
- Take a moment to look closely. What do you notice?
- What associations come to mind? What do you see that makes you say that?
- If you were going to describe this work to someone who had never seen it, what adjectives would you use? Why?
- If we turned up the "volume" of this painting, how might it sound? How has the artist created a sense of volume?
- What do you notice about the organization of the image? What impact does it have? Why?
- This painting was inspired by the life and poetry of William Carlos Williams. While many portraits describe how a person looks, this painting conveys a sense of identity through other means. How would you describe William Carlos Williams's personality based on what you see? What details support your interpretation?
Explore the relationship between William Carlos Williams's poem "The Great Figure" and Charles Demuth's painting I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold. What do these two works have in common? What sets them apart? Select a piece of writing by a person you admire and highlight one or two sentences that capture his or her personality. Create a nonfigurative portrait of this person, using the text you selected as a source of inspiration.
Activity Setting: Classroom or Museum
"Charles Demuth: I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (49.59.1)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)
Paul, Stella. Twentieth-Century Art: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.
Pre-Visit Guide for Teachers: Modern and Contemporary Art (PDF)
Sims, Lowery Stokes. The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984.
Williams, William Carlos. "The Great Figure." Poetry Foundation, Chicago, 2000–.
Marsden Hartley (American, 1877–1943)
Portrait of a German Officer, 1914
Oil on canvas
68 1/4 x 41 3/8 in. (173.4 x 105.1 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.70.42)
Florine Stettheimer (American, 1871–1944)
The Cathedrals of New York, 1929–44
Oil on canvas
60 x 50 in. (152.4 x 127 cm)
Gift of Ettie Stettheimer, 1953 (53.24.2)
Author: Adapted from Twentieth-Century Art: A Resource for Educators
Affiliation: The Metropolitan Museum of Art