Posts Tagged ‘Stuart Davis’

I am in the midst of a painting and I am at a point where I want to get at it as soon as I can. Plus I am not thinking in words this morning so it will be easier to move on with the day once I am painting. I know that sounds goofy, not thinking in words, but there are mornings, a lot of them lately, where I find myself just blankly staring at the screen. I have no words but do feel shapes and colors and patterns that can’t be verbally expressed.

Even writing that seems ridiculous when compared to what I am trying to describe.

So, instead I will share a video of the work of painter Stuart Davis who lived from 1892 until 1964 and was at the forefront of Pop Art. I like this video because it displays work from the different phases of his career, showing his stylistic evolution from realism to abstraction. Oddly enough, even though Davis’ work is mainly associated with jazz, the backing track of Ravel’s Bolero works pretty well.

Anyway, those are all the words I can muster today. Enjoy the Stuart Davis and the Bolero. Have a great day.

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Many of us are familiar with the work of Stuart Davis (1892- 1964), the American Modernist whose paintings presaged the Pop Art of the 60’s.  They were bold and colorful abstracted collages that use imagery from the landscape of the popular culture at the time they were created, creating works that immediately evoke a time.  When I see them I a transported to the New York or Paris of the 40’s and 50’s, with Jazz and poetry blossoming in the aftermath of a devastating war that really changed our perceptions of the world.

But it is Davis’ early work that always intrigues, particularly a small group that was painted not to far from where I live.  There are three landscapes painted just over the state line  in rural Tioga, Pennsylvania in 1919 that are very different from the work for which Davis is best known.  They show a young artist still working in the style of those artists who inspired him, trying on their style and brushstrokes in an effort to find his own voice. 

You can see how  he had been affected by seeing the work of Van Gogh and Picasso for the first time at the legendary Armory Show in 1913, where his own work hung among the emerging giants of modern painting.  Davis was then a student of Robert Henri and painted in a style associated with the  NYC Ashcan school of painters , of which Henri was a leader.  These three pieces have thick. expressive stokes of paint and scream of Van Gogh and have few hints at where Davis’ road would eventually lead him.

The pieces are very accomplished and have a certain charm but it is obvious that they are still derivative and that Davis is still in the midst of his evolution from talented mimic to an original voice.  To me, they are an interesting insight to how we synthesize our broad spectrum of  influences into something truly original.  I would be hard-pressed to say that the man who painted these pieces would eventually become a leading light of abstract modernism but they somehow moved him along in his search for his own distinct voice.  It only goes to show that we should take in everything that excites us even if it seems out of our normal area of comfort.  It may open new and exciting worlds to us that we could never foresee.

Stuart Davis--Self Portrait 1919


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