Charles Demuth was the beloved only child of financially secure merchants, which meant - among other fortunate things - he didn't have to battle with his parents over his career choice of "artist." After a sickly childhood, he studied in nearby Philadelphia at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (from 1901-05), and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1905-11). He then lived in Paris for two years, enjoying the company of fellow artists and absorbing European Modernism.
His early paying work was in illustration, though he also began painting lovely watercolor still lifes and, additionally, scenes of performers in a style that was reminiscent of both Everett Shinn and Toulouse-Lautrec. It wasn't until the late 1910s that he began exploring the Precisionism (a distillation of Cubism that concentrated on featuring American themes - devoid of human sitters - painted in geometric planes) that came to define him as an artist of note.
Demuth was that happy rarity: an artist who got along with other artists. He was on excellent terms with names such as Marsden Hartley, Marcel Duchamp, John Marin and Georgia O'Keeffe, as well as being "sponsored" by Alfred Stieglitz. He never married, but maintained a long-term, steadfast partnership with his companion Robert Evans Locher, an interior and stage designer. Demuth's homoerotic work has come under recent scholastic scrutiny, though it was never meant for public viewing.
After a lifetime of fragile health, Demuth succumbed to complications from diabetes in 1935. Today he is best known for drawing attention to Lancaster as an artistic center, his prolific output (over 1,000 paintings) and giving European Modernism a distinctly American flavor.