Birth Year : 1894|
Death Year : 1964
Country : US
The career of Stuart Davis has encompassed the entire span of modern art in the United States. As a boy in Philadelphia, he was surrounded by painters: his father was art editor with the Philadelphia Press and among his employees were the young artists John Sloan, William Glackens, Everett Shinn and George Luks. The Davis family moved to East Orange, New Jersey at the same time as the Philadelphia artist, Robert Henri, opened his school in New York City, which Davis left high school to attend. Like other Henri students Davis supported himself by doing illustrations for Harper's Weekly. He exhibited watercolors in the famous Armory show of 1913, a show that exposed him to the revolutionary painting going on in Europe at the time. For the next few years Davis experimented with the collage technique invented by Braque and Picasso. He pasted paper on the surface of his canvases and painted imitations of wallpapers, labels, etc. In these collages of 1921 he first introduced words and letters, elements that were to comprise an important part of his pictorial vocabulary. These early collages were a suggestion of the form that Pop Art would take in the 1960's.
In the 1930's, Davis experimented with a blend of Cubism and Futurism, combining many views of a subject into one painting. His friendship with Arshile Gorky was to reinforce one of the first bridges between the European modernists and the new American painting. Gorky admired Davis' conception of the canvas as a two-dimensional surface plane which should not be interrupted with suggestions of depth or perspective. By the forties, Davis was concerned with translating the sights and sounds of American life. He was one of the first artists to appreciate jazz as a distinctly American idiom. He blended hot, fully saturated oranges, pinks and magentas and lively dancing shapes to form the pictorial counterpart of the syncopated rhythms of jazz. In the late forties and fifties, Davis began using calligraphic shapes and words in his paintings. In his last paintings of 1963-64 words and abstract symbols dominate the canvas. Stuart Davis is almost the only American painter of the twentieth century whose works have transcended every change in style; he was respected and admired by the avant-garde artists of the fifties and acknowledged by the Pop artists of the sixties as their natural predecessor.
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