Stuart Davis

To many people a picture is a replica of a thing, or a story about some kind of situation. To an artist, on the other hand, it is an object which has been formed by an individual in response to emotional and intellectual needs. His purpose is never to counterfeit a subject but to develop a new subject. His purpose is also to live in giving importance to certain qualities in himself, which everyone presumably possesses, but which relatively few cultivate.

This is the core of Stuart Davis' artistic beliefs. This is the line along which he has worked since his student days under Robert Henri, through the lesson of The Armory Show of 1913, to the realization of one of the most individual American pictorial idioms of our period. Humor, a responsiveness to environment, and a clear-thinking realistic outlook, in addition to his native feeling for color and compositional relationships, are the qualities which Davis has most consistently cultivated. These are the qualities which form the backbone of his work, which give it its warmth, its bluntness, its infectious vitality.

Paris School, abstraction, escapism? Nope, just color-space compositions celebrating the resolution in art of stresses set up by some aspects of the American scene.*

Stuart Davis was born in Philadelphia, December 7, 1894. His father and mother had both studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Thomas Anschütz. At the time of Davis' birth his father, Edward Wyatt Davis, was art director of the Philadelphia Press. That Davis should adopt art as a profession was taken as a matter of course. In writing autobiographical sketches it is not unusual for artists to dwell on the obstacles they had to overcome before gaining the opportunity to study. I am deprived of the profound satisfaction of recounting such a victory over stubborn opposition. I had no obstacles to overcome.

His father originally intended to take up painting. As a kid he traveled round the country as a sign painter. He worked for a paint company, hand lettering sign boards. As art director of the Press his work was mainly layout and arranging assignments for other artists. However, he frequently drew cartoons himself and was the first in Philadelphia to reproduce paintings in a newspaper directly from photographs. Among the artists working in his department were John Sloan, George Luks, William Glackens

____________________
*
In the following essay the artist as often as possible speaks for himself. Italicized text indicates statements made by the artist in interviews with the writer, excerpts from a forthcoming autobiography, articles by Davis or previously published interviews, sources of which are indicated on page 40. In all instances the quotations have been read and approved by the artist.

-5-

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Stuart Davis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Acknowledgments 2
  • Contents 3
  • Chronology 4
  • Stuart Davis 5
  • Bibliography 35
  • Index to Davis Quotations in Text 37
  • Index 37
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