Red Poppies, 1929. Charles Demuth. Watercolor and graphite on paper. Gift of Henry and Louise Loeb, 1983.
Debilitated by diabetes during the last eight years of his life, Demuth's artistic output was also severely curtailed. Ironically, however, his late works, as evidenced by this 1929 watercolor of poppies (so reminiscent of O'Keeffe's poppies of 1927), are some of his boldest in terms of color, draftsmanship, and design. Unlike the luminous transparency of earlier botanical studies, the watercolor here is applied rather opaquely. The spiked contours and gentle curves of the flowers direct our eye around the composition, coming to rest on the large open blossom in the center. Presenting the full cycle of the flower - budding, opening, blooming, and decaying - he also suggests the human life cycle, and perhaps his own diminished physical strength.