The Figure 5 in Gold

In 1928, the great New York artist Charles Demuth painted "The Figure 5 in Gold". You can see it today at the Met.



"Bill" is written at the top of the painting, and "W.C.W." at the bottom- this refers to the poet William Carlos Williams- he wrote a poem called "The Great Figure", which this painting is an homage to.


The Great Figure

Among the rain
  and lights
  I saw the figure 5
  in gold
  on a red
  fire truck
  to gong clangs
  siren howls
  and wheels rumbling
  through the dark city
      -- William Carlos Williams

In 1963 , the pop artist Robert Indiana painted his own version.
All of this was originally inspired by the sight of an FDNY fire truck from Hook and Ladder Company No. 5, in Greenwich Village. They're still around- their trucks moving "tense unheeded... through the dark city". Their house is on Sixth Avenue, just below Houston. Friendly guys. They've retained the old 1920's font for the figure 5, as an homage to the paintings that were made in homage to them.

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