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 Gladys Rockmore Davis  (1901 - 1967)

About: Gladys Rockmore Davis
 

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: figure, genre, landscape, portrait

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Gladys Rockmore Davis
from Auction House Records.
End of Summer
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An artist who succeeded in both commercial and fine arts, Gladys Rockmore Davis gave up a career in advertising art to devote herself to creative painting. Her work in pastels ranks with her oils, and her chief subjects are children, nudes and still-lifes. She also painted ballet dancers, vignettes of liberated Paris, and scenes of Spain.

Born in New York City, on May 11, 1901, the daughter of David William Rockmore and Jeanette (Richman) Rockmore, Gladys Davis lived in New York until she was nine years old when her father, a lawyer and metallurgist, moved the family to Canada. She and her brother spent the next five years getting used to new schools as the family moved from place to place. The Rockmores eventually settled in San Francisco where Gladys attended the Girls' High School.

Miss Davis tells about her early background in an article, "My Desire to Paint", which appeared in the January 1940 issue of Magazine of Art, saying, "I was completely absorbed with the business of drawing from the first minute I was able to hold a pencil. I can remember as a child being intensely interested in drawing almost to the exclusion of everything else. That interest has continued uninterruptedly."

Although neither of her parents had any artistic inclinations, they encouraged her and sent her to the California School of Fine Arts. At the age of sixteen, she entered the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied with John Norton and George Bellows. She speaks affectionately of Norton who "taught me to look, to see, really to use my eyes. He showed me the vast difference between the actual distortion of reality and the 'pretty' distortion of the average point of view." She praised the Institute, not only for its teaching, but also for having a museum where the students could compare their work with the works of masters. "Great paintings put us in our places," she said.

After graduation from the Art Institute in 1920, she began her career as a commercial artist and worked in the advertising and fashion fields for eleven years. She feels this was an important phase of her career because it was then that she learned judgment, discipline and facility.

In 1925, she married Floyd MacMillan Davis, well-known illustrator, and combined painting with caring for her children, Noel and Deborah. The Davises went to Europe in 1932. While in France, Mrs. Davis visited Renoir's home and studio and studied his paintings. After touring the continent the family settled in Cannes, France, where Mrs. Davis started to paint as a creative artist. The transition was not so noticeable from day to day, but on her return to the United States in 1933, she found she had completely lost her flair for commercial work. Abandoning her former methods, she studied at the Art Students League in New York and with George Grosz for a year; then she started on her own as an artist.

Recognition came soon. She won the William R. French Gold Medal at the Chicago Institute of Art in 1937 and was recommended for the 1938 purchase prize by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts at Richmond, Virginia. In 1939 she received honorable mention from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and third honorable mention from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York bought her August Afternoon in 1940. This was followed by a number of prizes in museums throughout the country, and in 1941 she gave her first one-man show at the Rehn Gallery in New York City. After two additional one-man shows at the Midtown Gallery in New York an art critic called Gladys Rockmore Davis "the ten-year wonder of United States art".

Mrs. Davis always set out to paint the things with which she was familiar. Her two children, Noel and Deborah, posed for many paintings from their babyhood through their youth. Among her best-known works are Noel with Violin, Emma, Girl Braiding Her Hair, Letter, and Carousel.

Her work was described by a critic of the Art Digest (May 1, 1943) as that of "one of our strongest women artists, who is not so much concerned with fantasy as she is with painting a good solid, professional picture". On the other hand, after her 1949 show at the Midtown, an art critic from Art News spoke of Davis as "a gifted and facile realistic painter who has permitted her expression to descend to the easy reference of commercial art. Her wistful little children have already promoted a number of products in national advertisements and wide eyes and puppy-like gestures are absolutely irresistible to the average housewife. It is a pity that her more serious paintings--some of them are extremely ambitious metaphorical workshave become infected by this soap-opera disease".

At the Metropolitan Opera House in 1944, Mrs. Davis made many intimate sketches of the ballet from backstage and other studies in the dressing rooms. In painting the ballet scenes, she captured the drama of contrasts resulting from the intense lighting on the stage and darkness of the wings where the dancers waited their entrances. In the dressing rooms she sketched the ballerinas while they made their changes. She selected scenes from Petrouchka, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Giselle and Aleko. During World War II, her ballet sketches were exhibited in Bonwit Teller store windows while she worked inside sketching ballerinas and giving her pictures away for the purchase of $100 war bonds. She received a citation from the Government in 1945 in recognition of this service.

Mrs. Davis and her husband were commissioned by Life magazine to paint liberated Paris in 1944 and 1945. Floyd Davis concentrated on the wartime city with American soldiers, while she painted the familiar and nostalgic scenes. Reviewing the show, which was exhibited in the foyer of the Time-Life Building in 1945, a critic from the New York World-Telegram commented, "This was an uncertain, frightened city Gladys Davis was painting. Only the children seemed happy, well nourished, at ease. The merry-go-rounds, the Luxembourg gardens, the puppet shows, are quite as they have always been. Everything else had a furtive, unreal look about it in those uncertain days before the Rhine was crossed". Some of the Parisian scenes painted by Mrs. Davis were Chez Suzy, Bookstalls, Joan of Arc Statue and Flower Stalls.

Mrs. Davis was one of the artists participating in the first art show sponsored by the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1945; in the same year she won the Pepsi-Cola Portrait of America Show popular prize. She was represented in the Portraits, Inc., in 1947 of Family Life in the United States during the past hundred years with her paintings of the children of Mr. and Mrs.
John P. Marquand. Some art lovers compare her portraits of children to those by Mary Cassatt, the American Impressionist painter of a previous generation.

In 1951, Mrs. Davis won the Gold Medal from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She is a full Academician at the National Academy of Design. When Mrs. Davis visited Spain in 1952 she was stimulated, as in France, to new work, which resulted a one-man show held in April 1953, called "Paintings of Spain." One critic spoke of the "vibrant color of her brush work" and "her classic virtues applied in a contemporary way". Calling herself "a conservative modern" she wrote that her husband's "unfailing interest and flawless taste have been a continuous source of inspiration."



Biography from RoGallery.com:
An artist who succeeded in both commercial and fine arts, Gladys Rockmore Davis gave up a career in advertising art to devote herself to creative painting. Her work in pastels ranks with her oils, and her chief subjects are children, nudes and still-lifes. She also painted ballet dancers, vignettes of liberated Paris, and scenes of Spain.

Born in New York City, on May 11, 1901, the daughter of David William Rockmore and Jeanette (Richman) Rockmore, Gladys Davis lived in New York until she was nine years old when her father, a lawyer and metallurgist, moved the family to Canada. She and her brother spent the next five years getting used to new schools as the family moved from place to place. The Rockmores eventually settled in San Francisco where Gladys attended the Girls' High School. In 1925, she married Floyd MacMillan Davis, well-known illustrator, and combined painting with caring for her children, Noel and Deborah. The Davises went to Europe in 1932. While in France, Mrs. Davis visited Renoir's home and studio and studied his paintings. After touring the continent the family settled in Cannes, France, where Mrs. Davis started to paint as a creative artist.

The transition was not so noticeable from day to day, but on her return to the United States in 1933, she found she had completely lost her flair for commercial work. Abandoning her former methods, she studied at the Art Students League in New York and with George Grosz for a year; then she started on her own as an artist.

Recognition came soon. She won the William R. French Gold Medal at the Chicago Institute of Art in 1937 and was recommended for the 1938 purchase prize by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts at Richmond, Virginia. In 1939 she received honorable mention from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and third honorable mention from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York bought her August Afternoon in 1940. This was followed by a number of prizes in museums throughout the country, and in 1941 she gave her first one-man show at the Rehn Gallery in New York City.  After two additional one-man shows at the Midtown Gallery in New York an art critic called Gladys Rockmore Davis "the ten-year wonder of United States art".

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