George Deem, American (1932 - 2008)

George Deem

George Deem was a leading painter among contemporary artists using the technique and the images of the old Masters. Deem encourages and expects the viewer to be aware of the original source of his subject. Their knowledge and familiarity with the subject will extenuate the viewers perception of his deliberate restyling. The trend in Deem's paintings is away from the elaborate symbolic apparatus and towards reduced, less obvious cleverly disguised symbol- ism.

Deems' paintings are more than allegorical as they imply some warning or moral purpose for his contemporary viewers. Deem has taken to using Vermeer's images not for purely aesthetic ends alone, but to illustrate in 1979 how the meaning attached to these traditions has dropped away. What remains is ample evidence of Deems' wish to be "read" as metaphorical and even arcane through his use of the traditional. For example, Deem has used Stuart's portrait of Washington and added white face taking a deadly humorous and political stance in attacking our aesthetic and moral values.

Deems work has, for the intellectually curious, allusions, puzzles and hidden meanings that are used to make all sorts of jokes and puns on contemporary and traditional concepts of imagery. Deem has manipulated these aspects to delight the nimble mind and has created an image of significance to survive and help secure his fame. Many artists currently using masterpieces as direct models in their work employ a blatantly contemporary technique and medium. Deem retains a stylistic interest in the painting techniques and medium of the Old Masters. Working in oil, with a dead- pan and skillful "trompe l'oeil" he exhibits great technical expertise in seemingly painting in the old manner. Born in Vincennes, Indiana, in 1932, Deem lived in New York where he exhibited regularly since 1963 at the Allan Stone Gallery.

If imitation is a sincere form of flattery, Mr. Deem’s admiration of his artistic forebears was carried out on his own canvases. Gifted at reproduction, he concentrated on making explicit references to other painters and other paintings, uncannily recreating the style, the light, the brushstrokes as well as the details of artists he loved.

But in addition to the explicit references, there were always subtle — or not so subtle — alterations. By leaving out familiar elements or adding elements to known works, or reconfiguring components within them, he made his work a visual commentary on the history of painting, dating to the Renaissance. His “School of Mantegna,” for example, placed desks and a blackboard within the architectural and religious elements of an Andrea Mantegna painting.

Other artists who commanded his attention were Caravaggio, Chardin, Ingres, Homer, Matisse, Picasso and, especially, Vermeer, whose works he returned to again and again. He painted Vermeer’s studio without Vermeer in it. He reproduced “The Concert,” leaving out two human figures. He painted “Seven Vermeer Corners,” comprising similar parts of different Vermeer rooms set next to one another on a single canvas.

George Deem passed away in 2008 from Lung Cancer.


James Goodman Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Henri Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Landau-Alexander Gallery, L.A.,
California Merida Gallery, Louisville, Ken.
Galerie Thelen, Essen, West Germany
Sneed Gallery, Rockford, Ill.


Dilexi Gallery, San Francisco, Calif.
Yale University Art Gallery, Conn.
Gemeente Museum, The Hague, traveling to Brussels, Berlin, and Vienna
Rockford Art Association, Rockford, Ill.
Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Ill.
Milwaukee Art Center, travelling to Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and Akron Art Institute
Denver Art Museum
Indianapolis Museum of Art
krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Ill. Indianapolis Museum of Art Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Tex.
Allan Stone Gallery, New York
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ill.
Green Mountain Gallery, New York
Washington University Gallery of Art, St. Louis, Mo.
Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, Univ. of kansas, Kan.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, N.C.
Wight Art Gallery, Univ. of Calif. at L.A.,
Calif. Portland Art Museum, Portland, Ore.
Landau Alexander Gallery, L.A., Calif.
Allan Stone Gallery, New York
Evansville Museum of Arts & Science, Ind.
Evansville Museum of arts and science; traveling to Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville.
Capricorn Gallery, Bethseda, Maryland.
Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York.
Evansville Museum of Arts & Science, Indiana.
Las Vegas Art Museum, Nevada
Pavel Zoubok, New York.


Albright-knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College,
American National Bank & Trust Company, Rockford, Illinois.
Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, Arizona.
Becton Dickinson & Company, Paramus, New Jersey.
Clearly Gottlieb Steen & hamilton, New York.
Evansville Museum of Arts & Science, Indiana.
Fleet Boston Financial/ Robertson Stephens, New York.
Florida International University Art Museum, Miami.
Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City Missouri.
Houston Museum of Fine Arts
Indianapolis Museum of Art.
J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, New York
MGM/Mirage Resorts, Inc., Las Vegas Nevada, and Biloxi, Mississippi.
Museum Ludwig Donation, The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.
Nutter McClennen & Fish, Boston.
Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, New York
Rockford Art Museum, Illionois.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Stifling Ludwig, Aachen, Germany.
Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, New York.
Wellington Management Company, Boston.

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