George Deem

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George Deem
George Charles Deem Jr

(1932-08-18) August 18, 1932 (age 87)
Vicennes, Indiana USA
Alma materSchool of the Art Institute of Chicago

George Charles Deem Jr. (August 18, 1932 – August 11, 2008) was an American artist best known for reproducing vivid re-workings of classic images from art history. All artists rework the art of the past, at times imitating, at times extending, and at times rejecting the work of artists they admire. Deem moved the process of homage and change into uncharted territory. Art historian Robert Rosenblum has called Deem's unconventional thematic choices "free-flowing [fantasy] about the facts and fictions of art history."

Life and career[edit]

Deem was born in Vincennes, Indiana where he grew up and often worked alongside his cantaloupe-farmer father. He left his parents' farm to attend School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A year later, in 1953, the United States Army drafted him. After serving in Germany, he returned and completed his degree.

He spent some years in Italy researching the painting styles of Renaissance painters. Deem traveled the United States speaking and exhibiting his art, but lived most of his life at 10 West 18th Street in New York's Flatiron District. Among the artists whose work he reproduced were Caravaggio, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Winslow Homer, Andrea Mantegna, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and, especially, Johannes Vermeer, about whose style he wrote a book.[1] During a 1993 visit to New York, Deem noted to his great-nephew, Kenneth J. Knight, Ph.D., that his favorite artist was Johannes Vermeer.

"The artist George Deem (1932-2008) had a unique relationship to and vision of the masterpieces of the past, especially the landmarks of Western painting that date from the Renaissance to the modern era. As Deem himself acknowledged, his abiding interest was in the two quintessential characteristics of Western art: first, the use of oil paint as a medium; and second, the development of a convincing system of perspective. From Raphael to Ruscha, from Watteau to Whistler, from Bingham to the Bauhaus, Deem meticulously reconstructed and reinterpreted the art of the past with insight, originality, and wit … In his analysis and interpretation of works such as these, Deem made his own, important contribution to the history of art." David Dearinger, George Deem: The Art of Art History, Boston: The Boston Athenaeum, 2012. 11, 32-4 Deem died of lung cancer in Manhattan in 2008.[1]


• 1965-66. School of Visual Arts, New York. Taught painting part-time. • 1966-67. Leicester College of Art and Technology, now De Montfort University. Taught painting part-time, commuting two days a week from London. • 1968. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Spring semester, taught painting two days a week, commuting from New York.


• Artist-in-Residence, Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, Evansville, Indiana, June 1979. • Visiting Artist, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, October 1982. • Artist-in Residence, The Branson School, Ross, California, January 1995. • Resident Fellow, MacDowell Colony, December 1977, January 1978, July 1979. • Secretary, Executive Committee, MacDowell Colony Fellows 1982-84.


• Vincennes University Faculty Citation for Outstanding Alumni, Vincennes, Indiana, November 20, 1981

Metropolitan Museum of Art[edit]

• Worked collating Christmas cards and in the display department at the Metropolitan Museum, 1958–60

Selected publications[edit]

  • Deem, George (1993). Art School. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0-8118-0414-1
  • Deem, George (2004). How to Paint a Vermeer: A Painter's History of Art. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-28509-1


External links[edit]