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 Arthur Bowen Davies  (1862 - 1928)

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Lived/Active: New York/California / Italy      Known for: painting-landscape-ethereal female figures

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Arthur Bowen Davies
from Auction House Records.
Nude in Landscape
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Utica, New York, Arthur Davies gained a reputation for ethereal figure paintings, ones that expressed lightness and mysticism.  He was also a principal organizer of the 1913 Armory Show that revolutionized American art by introducing modernism to the viewing public.

He attended the Chicago Academy of Design and from 1879 to 1882, traveled in the West, to Colorado and Mexico City where he worked as a drafting civil engineer.  He briefly attended the Chicago Art Institute, and in 1885 moved to New York City where he studied at the Art Students League and Gotham Art Students League.  He supported himself as a billboard painter, engineering draftsman, and magazine illustrator.

In 1893, he made the first of many trips to Europe, visiting Holland, Paris, and London. He particularly studied the Dutch realist painters, the Maris brothers.  He settled in Congers, New York and from there traveled extensively throughout the United States.

He developed a style that combined the visionary with Symbolism with elements of Tonalism, Art Nouveau, and Cubism and became increasingly interested in expressing a feeling of lightness in figural compositions.

He also did printmaking, having begun in the 1880s and producing some two-hundred graphic works between 1916 and his death in 1928.

Source:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Artists


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Utica, NY in 1863 of Welsh descent. When Arthur was 16, the Davies family moved to Chicago. He studied at the AIC and later furthered his art studies in Mexico while working as a civil engineer. His first exhibition was in 1888 at the American Art Ass'n. While in northern California in 1905, he painted in the Sierra. He was one of "The Eight," a group of painters who became a symbol of revolt in American art after an exhibition in NYC in 1908. Davies was instrumental in creating the Armory Show of 1913 there after which time he adopted a Cubist style. His final years were spent in Florence, Italy; he died there in 1928. Famous for his landscapes with figures, his early paintings were romantic and emotional while his later works were more self-conscious. Member: NA. Exh: Newhouse Gallery (LA), 1929. In: MM; Oakland Museum; AIC.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Artists of the American West (Samuels); Art in California (R. L. Bernier, 1916); Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); From Frontier to Fire; Art News, 12-22-1928 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Vered Gallery:
Arthur B. Davies was pivotal in organizing the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show, bringing avant gard European artists to America: Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky,  Alexander Archipenko,  Odilon Redon, Georges Braque, Georges Rouault, Marcel Duchamp, Frances Picabia, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Mary Cassatt, Manet, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec,  James McNeill Whistler.  The Armory show brought Symbolism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Cubism to American artists and collectors visiting its three venues in the ‘New World’; New York, Chicago and Boston.  
 
Davies was himself, a painter more attached late 19th century French influences, particularly the stylized, symbolist works of Puvis de Chavannes.  He was a muralist and printmaker of visionary landscapes inhabited by dreamy, Arcadian figures, whose works found great support among collectors as can be seen by the enormous list of museums with his collected his works – but who will  forever by remembered for his role in introducing modernism to America.
 
Born in Utica, New York, Davies showed an early interest in mechanics, sports and art.  He first studied privately with Dwight Williams in Utica and when the family moved to Chicago in 1878, he enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Design and studied under Toy Robertson.  He soon left for the West.  Davies joined an expedition to Mexico as a civil engineer, traveling to the post by horseback after spending time with the Blackfeet Indians in the Dakota Territory in 1880.  By 1882, he was back in Chicago where he enrolled at the Art Institute School to study with Charles Corwin.  From Chicago he moved to New York City in 1885  where he studied at the Art Students League and Gotham Art Students League, while supporting himself doing billboard painting, engineering draftsman projects, and magazine illustration. 

In 1893, he made the first of many trips to Europe, visiting Holland, Paris, and London, studying contemporary art on the Continent. . During  this period his works were keenly influenced by  Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, French Symbolist Painter and Mural Painter of the second half of the 19th century and  the Dutch realist painters, the Maris brothers.  Upon his return to the United States, he again traveled throughout the United States.  His marriage to a medical doctor, Virginia Davis, in 1892 prompted a move to Congers New York, where Davies tried unsuccessfully to farm.  The neighboring countryside, however, became a new backdrop for his watercolors, pastels and small oil panels of the period.  He continued to exhibit in New York and, with the support of his dealer, William Macbeth, was able to spend time in Europe in 1893, studying the work of the Venetian’s, the Pre-Raphaelites and the German Romantics.  Three years later Macbeth held a one-man show for Davies, which guaranteed him a wide circle of patrons.   By 1900, the artist was having major domestic difficulties.  He began living with Edna Potter, a model, in New York City, and assumed the name of David A Owen within this second group of family and friends.  He kept these two separate identities to the end of his life.  His artistic friends in New York who knew him as Davies included Marsden Hartley, Rockwell Kent, Walt Kuhn and the members of the so-called Ashcan School (Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast) with whom he exhibited at Macbeth’s famous show of The Eight in 1908.
 
In 1911, Davies was elected President of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors and, with Walter Pach, Kuhn and others, organized the Armory Show of 1913.  Davies was the primary creative and administrative force behind the pivotal Armory Show, which first brought the full force of Modernism to the United States.  Davies's involvement with the Modern artists is reflected in his production of cubist-inspired works during the period.   Also during this period, he was advising the collector Lillie P Bliss, whose Post-Impressionist masterpieces later became the foundation of the Museum of Modern Art.  Davies’ past-Armory work, under the strong influence of the Synchromism of Morgan Russell and Stanton Macdonald-Wright, combined the interpenetrating planes of Cubism with his figural representations.
 
In 1924 Davies executed murals for Bliss and for the International House in New York.  He also produced, in his lifetime, about eighty works in bronze and wood and numerous lithographs, aquatints and etchings,  The last decade saw a return to his romanticized figure works, which show the influence of the theories of “inhalation,” in which the models posed while holding their breath.  In the twenties, Davies also began to divide his time between New York and Europe, first in Paris and the in Florence.

Davies was certainly well respected and widely collected in his own day.  His contribution to the promotion of progressive American art are critical to its development.
 
Arthur B Davies died in Florence in 1928.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art held a memorial exhibition two years after his death. 

His work is represented in over 100 museums including: Addison Gallery of American Art; Allen Memorial Art Museum; Arizona State University Art Museum; Arnot Art Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; Ball State University Museum of Art; Boca Raton Museum of Art; Brandywine River Museum; Butler Institute of American Art; Cantor Arts Center, Stanford; Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh/Carnegie ; Cheekwood Museum of Art & Botanical Garden; Chrysler Museum of Art; Cincinnati Art Museum; Colby College Museum of Art; Colorado Historical Society; Crocker Art Museum; Delaware Art Museum; Denver Art Museum; Everson Museum Of Art; Flint Institute of Arts; Frederick R Weisman Art Museum; George Walter Vincent Smith Museum; Georgia Museum of Art; Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art; High Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Hunter Museum of American Art; Indianapolis Museum of Art;  Jack S Blanton Museum of Art; Joslyn Art Museum; LaSalle University Art Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Lyman Allyn Museum; Maier Museum of Art; Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum; Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum; Mead Art Museum; Memorial Art Gallery; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Michael C Carlos Museum; Michelson Museum of Art; Middlebury College Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Minnesota Museum of American Art; Mobile Museum of Art; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts; Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute; Musees Nationaux Paris; Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia; Museum of Art at Brigham Young University; Museum of Art at Brigham Young University; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of New Mexico; Muskegon Museum of Art; National Gallery of Art;  Neuberger Museum of Art; New Jersey State Museum; New Orleans Museum of Art; Oakland Museum of California; Oklahoma City Museum of Art; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Phoenix Art Museum; Portland Art Museum; Reading Public Museum; Rhode Island School of Design-Museum of Art; Robert Hull Fleming Museum; Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College; San Diego Museum of Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Sheldon Museum of Art; Sheldon Swope Art Museum; Smithsonian American Art Museum ; Telfair Museum of Art; The Arkell Museum at Canajoharie; The Art Museum, Princeton University; The Brooklyn Museum of Art; The Columbus Museum of Art-Ohio;  The Columbus Museum-Georgia; The Dayton Art Institute; The Detroit Institute of Arts; The Detroit Institute of Arts; The Hickory Museum of Art; The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art; The John H. Vanderpoel Art Association; The Montclair Art Museum; The Museum of Modern Art; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; The Newark Museum; The Parrish Art Museum; The Phillips Collection; The Toledo Museum of Art; The University of Arizona Museum of Art; The University of Michigan Museum of Art; The WashingtonCounty Museum of Fine Arts; University of Wyoming Art Museum;  USC Fisher Gallery; USC Fisher Gallery; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Worcester Art Museum; and  Yale University Art Gallery.

Biography from Owen Gallery:
Arthur Bowen Davies, the fourth of five children, was born in Utica, New York.  His first formal art training was at the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1880s.  By the end of the decade, Davies moved to New York City and began exhibiting his artwork.

He was one of eight artists included in the landmark exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908.  The show was meant as a protest to the conservative tastes of the National Academy of Design.  Many of the artists of The Eight, a term later used for them, followed the Ashcan School aesthetic of Robert Henri.

The paintings of Davies, however, lack an interest in coarse realism.  According to Brian Paul Clamp, "Davies's scenes are of the imagination.  Nymphs and fairies frolic in pastoral landscapes which resonate with allegorical and mythic overtones."

Though Davies's work is not well understood today, he was certainly well respected and widely collected in his own day.  His contribution to the promotion of progressive American art must be noted.  Aside from his participation in the organization of The Eight exhibition, he was the primary creative and administrative force behind the pivotal Armory Show of 1913, which first brought the full force of Modernism to the United States.  Davies's involvement with the Modern artists is reflected in his production of cubist-inspired works during the period.

Owen Gallery credits: The Eight: Bridging the Art of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Brian Paul Clamp; and "The Independents: The Ashcan School & Their Circle from Florida Collections" by Valerie Ann Leeds in American Art Review, May 1996.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


Arthur Davies is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913
Painters of Nudes
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Tonalism



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