Tag Archives: i saw the figure five in gold

Eye On Design: Dressing Table and Mirror By Norman Bel Geddes

Dressing Table and Mirror Norman Bel Geddes
Photo By Gail

This Vanity (1928) stands as a harbinger in the evolution of an American modern style. Norman Bel Geddes (1893 -1988) conceived of it only a year after founding the first industrial design firm in the United States. His prior experience on theater and film sets lent a dramatic flair to his consumer products, including  this dressing table and mirror, made of enameled and chrome-plated steel, which was part of a larger suite of metal bedroom furniture.

Designed a the height of the Roaring Twenties, it echoes the sleek modernity of Manhattan skyscrapers, a favored motif among Art Deco designers, with its sequence of setbacks from drawers to mirror top. The industrial materials emphasize the design’s mechanical production, while the polished enamel and elegant trim and drawer pulls suggest something of the luxurious finishes found in handmade Art Deco furniture.

Seen in the Mirror: A reflection of the painting, I Saw The Figure Five in Gold By Charles Demuth.

Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: I Saw The Figure Five in Gold By Charles Demuth

I Saw the Figure Five in Gold
All Photos By Gail

I Saw the Figure Five in Gold (1928) is one of my favorite modern paintings; one that I have loved since I was in my teens. To be honest, I am a little bit obsessed with it. That might have something to do with the fact that the painting’s title is a complete sentence. “I Saw the Figure Five in Gold” sounds like something you would say in a dream. I bet you didn’t even know that this painting is actually a Portrait that was loosely inspired by a Fire Engine, but it is.

Here is the Story:

Between 1924 and 1929 Charles Demuth completed eight abstract portraits  as tributes to modern American artists, writer, and performers. Though not a physical likeness, Demuth created this portrait of his friend, William Carlos Williams, using imagery from William’s poem, The Great Figure, which evokes sights and sounds of a fire engine speeding down the street. The intersecting lines, repeated “5,” round forms of the numbers, lights, street lamp, and blaring sirens of the red fire engine together infuse the painting with vibrant, urban energy. Demuth derived the painting’s title from the poem, which reads:

Figure Five in Gold Poem

Another fun bit of related trivia to know is that the FDNY Engine 5, stationed at East 14th Street between First and Second Avenues, has this painting hanging just inside the entrance to the garage.

Photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.