Although Stuart Davis did not travel to Paris until 1928, he was well versed in avant-garde European art, including the innovative still lifes of of Pablo Picasso. Super Table (1925) experiments with the nature of the genre, toying with issues of illusion and perspective. Davis was also influenced by popular advertisement imagery, and his graphic style evokes the mechanical, cartoon like forms of commercial printing that were the hallmark of American culture
The starting point for this lively patterned abstraction was an earlier canvas by Stuart Davis (1892 – 1964) entitled House and Street (1931). Treating each subsequent version as a riff on a jazz theme, Davis moved further and further away from his original composition to establish independent, rhythmic color patterns that retained only a few direct visual cues to the initial design. The Mellow Pad (1945 – 51) refers to the phrase “the mellow pad” — jazz lingo for the “cool” place to be. The pulsating colors and meandering forms seen here effectively mimic the dynamic rhythms of jazz. Davis developed his own style of Synthetic Cubism in which he dissolved figure and ground and referenced popular culture, adding a distinctly American sensibility to his abstractions
Heralded for his abstract visual evocations of jazz, Stuart Davis‘s art also responded profoundly to the industrial age. Men and Machine (1934) features two men standing before a schematically rendered structure with their backs to the viewer. Likely representing a construction site with the foreman and investor looking on, the painting alludes to New York’s interwar construction boom. Highlighting the degree to which industrialism was associated with masculinity, Davis’s painting, consisting of primary colors on a white background, also testifies to the artist’s respect for Piet Mondrian.
Photographed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Influenced by the Cubist language of flat, overlapping planes and wedges, Stuart Davis (1892 – 1964) used geometric shapes in related colors to create this still life, Percolator (1927). Here, he deconstructs the cylindrical forms of a mass-produced, percolator coffeepot and renders the everyday object both abstract and undefinable. By choosing an industrially produced consumer product as his subject, Davis put a new spin on the spatial innovations of the previous decade’s European avant-garde art movements.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
During the 1930s, Stuart Davis, who criticized Thomas Hart Benton’s self-consciously American art as inherently xenophobic, and [referred to] the elongated figures in his paintings as dehumanizing caricatures, was one of Benton’s most vocal adversaries. Even so, their art intersected in many ways. Painted in 1930, Jefferson Market depicts the public space and surrounding structures along Sixth Avenue between 10th and Christopher Streets, only two blocks south of the New School’s headquarters. Davis compressed symbols of urban infrastructure into spatially complex, collage-like painting. The looming shadow of a taller skyscraper in the background portends New York’s continual urban transformation, a theme that Benton engaged in the City Building panel of America Today.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in NYC.
Report From Rockport By Stuart Davis (All Photos By Gail)
Although he passed away when I was only three years old, Stuart Davis is an American painter whose works I’ve completely fallen in love with through seeing them in the permanent collections of The Met, MOMA and The Whitney – the latter of which is currently hosting a career retrospective of Davis’ paintings entitled In Full Swing, which is just mind blowing.
If you are a Davis fan, this exhibit is a must-see. If you’re not yet familiar with his work, now is the time to get yourself an education.
Stuart Davis (1892–1964) was one of the preeminent figures of American modernism. With a long career that stretched from the early twentieth century well into the postwar era, he brought a distinctively American accent to international modernism.
Gerald Clery Murphy (1888 – 1964) and his wife, Sara Sherman Wiborg were wealthy, expatriate Americans who moved to the French Riviera in the early 20th century and who, with their generous hospitality and flair for parties, created a vibrant social circle, particularly in the 1920s, that included a great number of artists and writers including Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, John O’Hara, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.
While Murphy only painted from 1921 until 1929; he is known for his hard-edged still life paintings in a Precisionist, Cubist style. During the 1920s Gerald Murphy, along with other American modernist painters in Europe, notably Charles Demuth and Stuart Davis created paintings prefiguring the pop art movement that contained pop culture imagery, such as mundane objects culled from American commercial products and advertising design.
During his short career as an artist, Gerald Murphy produced only about fourteen paintings. Key among them is Cocktail, a bold, stylized still life comprised of flattened geometric shapes, overlapping forms, and spatially illogical juxtapositions. A poignant memento of the urban, sophisticated lifestyle of the Jazz Age, the painting’s formal qualities are reminiscent of French Cubism as well as the industrial aesthetic of the American Precisionists. Yet Cocktailis also distinguished by its uniquely autobiographical approach.
The depicted accoutrements of a typical 1920s bar tray were based on Murphy’s memory of his father’s bar accessories, and the five cigars represent the artist, his wife, and their three children. The illusionistic depiction of the box cover, which alone took four months to complete, shows a robed woman surrounded by items that allude to Murphy himself and an artist’s palette. By celebrating a ritual that was forbidden during Prohibition in America, but which became a distinctive feature of European life during the 1920s, the painting also affirms Murphy’s status as a stylish and worldly expatriate.
Photographed in the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.
In the early 1920s, in response to the industrial age and increasing consumerism, Stuart Davis began to incorporate commercial goods and advertising graphics into his art. Edison Mazda (1924), with its flattened space and collage-like composition, resembles the Cubist still lifes of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. But rather than portraying pipe racks and candlesticks, Davis includes a contemporary manufactured object: a blue, seventy-five watt light bulb.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
To Stuart Davis (1892 – 1964), the French word Semé (Sown), the title of this 1953 painting, connotes lots of things strewn about. The composition presents a lively jumble of variously sized and colored shapes that collide and overlap, creating juxtapositions enhanced by the work’s punchy, discordant palette.
The word “any” evokes equality among all the elements in the picture; “Eydeas” is a fusion of the words “eye” and “ideas.” Davis’s flat, graphic style of painting and the incorporation of text suggest his appreciation of commercial advertising and, thus, his deliberate fusion of “high” and “low” art.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum on Art in NYC.
Long before Andy Warhol and other Pop artists mined the world of trademark brands, Stuart Davis (1892 – 1964) incorporated imagery from logos, commercial signage and modern packaging into his paintings. The artist created the above work in 1924 – during the Golden Age of Advertising – as a sleek, streamlined ode to a bottle of mouthwash.
Odol is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.