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Stuart Davis

American Painter

Stuart Davis Photo

Born: December 7, 1892 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died: June 24, 1964 - New York, New York

"I paint what I see in America, in other words I paint the American scene."

Stuart Davis Signature

Summary of Stuart Davis

One of America's first modern artists and a forefather of Pop art, Stuart Davis began his artistic career with the Ashcan School before embracing European modernism following the Armory Show. The artist's abstract paintings, infused with jazz rhythm and bold, colorful abstractions of New York's urban landscape or household objects, offer a taste of European Cubism with an American twist. Whether painting in the style of realism or Post-cubist abstraction, Davis's determination to convey something of American political and consumer culture was unwavering.

Key Ideas

Davis is credited with developing an American variation of European Cubism at a time when modernism was just beginning to infiltrate the country. Through slang words and imagery that were distinctly American, Davis's paintings established the country's presence in the burgeoning modern art world.
The artist was one of the first to consider jazz and swing music in conjunction with painting. His use of bright, pulsating colors, expressive lines, and repetitious shapes creates a visual rhythm in his paintings similar to the syncopation and improvisation of jazz music.
Davis introduced a new post-Cubist approach to abstraction by dispersing shapes, throughout the canvas and balancing bold colors in such a way as to deny a central focal point. This new method, in which all parts are equal so that the viewer's eye can wander unguided, signified an important step toward the complete abstraction accomplished by Abstract Expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock.
Davis transformed common consumer products and advertisements into singular works of high art that evoked the American populist spirit, prefiguring Pop art of the 1960s.
Stuart Davis Photo

The son of sculptor Helen Stuart Foulke and art editor Edward Wyatt Davis, Stuart Davis seemed destined for a career in the fine arts. His interest in drawing was apparent by age sixteen, when he began writing and illustrating adventure stories for his brother Wyatt, thirteen years his junior. Davis's father was then the art editor and cartoonist for Newark Evening News. The family's relocation from Philadelphia, where Davis was born, to New Jersey was fortuitous for Davis's artistic development. It put him in closer contact with a number of artist-reporters who had been working with his father since the 1890s. Now known as "the Eight," these artists included Robert Henri, George Luks, and Everett Shinn.

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