I’m a big fan of the work of American artist Stuart Davis. He was a very big deal in 20th century US art for a very long time. And yet, somehow, he is not so well known now as many other American-born artists. Above: Drugstore Reflection, ink over pencil

Above is called Ivy League, 1953. Stuart Davis almost always included words, letters, and/or numbers in his work. I particularly like his drawings, just pencil or ink over pencil. But he typically went on to develop these images into paintings with strong, well chosen colours.

Stuart Davis painted a lot of city scenes and a lot of harbour scenes. He seemed to be as much at home on a busy street in a big city as he was on a wharf on a small seaside town. Above, done in 1930, is now in the Phillips Collection in Washington DC.

New York city skyline New York 1938. Image from here.

Above is called Shapes of Landscape Space, 1938. It’s a peach.

Early on, he left the US (he was born in Philadelphia) and went to Paris and produced some wondrous street scenes. Above, Blue Cafe, 1928, from Phillips Collection again.

Above, 1928 Rue de l’Echaude Paris, now in the MOMA.

Lucky Strike, 1924, above, is the only work of major museum art that I know of that features the Sports Page of a newspaper. In the Hirshhorn museum (The Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden) also in Washington, DC.

Several above, and more about Stuart Davis, at Best American Art, a nice blog, found here.

Left Stuart Davis 1958, in work clothes, and on the right, somewhat earlier in business clothes. He was a pretty rough looking character whatever he wore. He was born in 1892 and lived until 1964 and was actively engaged in what was going on around him throughout his life.

More at this site from Yale University (where he taught).

His work now sells consistently well. Above a nifty thing called Rialto, early 1960’s, sold at Sotheby’s in 2008 for $629,000.

Above called Memo, 1953, seen here

Composition with Winch, 1932, sold for $825,000 in 2008

Among other memorable things,Stuart Davis said this:

Some of the things that have made me want to paint are: American wood and iron work of the past; ….the brilliant colors on gasoline stations, chain-store fronts, and taxi-cabs, the music of Bach, synthetic chemistry; the poetry of Rimbaud; fast travel by train, auto, and aeroplane, …. electric signs; the landscape and boats of Gloucester, Mass., 5 & 10 cent store kitchen utensils; movies and radio.

He painted them all in a way entirely his own, entirely modern, and yet his work has the solid structure and deep understanding of stained glass windows in medieval cathedrals.

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