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 Francis Davison  (1919 - 1984)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: Abstract painting, collage

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Francis Davison (1919-1984)

Born in London on 9 June 1919, son of George Davison, who made his fortune as a managing director of Kodak.  He studied at Cambridge where he read English and anthropology but began as a poet and turned to painting after Patrick Heron, a friend from St George’s school, Harpenden, invited him to St Ives, Cornwall.  Artist Margaret Mellis (1914-2009), divorced in 1946 from fellow artist Adrian Stokes (1902-1972)who then left the marital home at Carbis Bay, Cornwall, invited Patrick and Delia Heron to stay with her.  They in turn in 1946 invited recently divorced friend, Francis Davison to join them in Cornwall.   Francis and Margaret, struck up a friendship, married in 1948 and were rarely separated thereafter.  The couple spent three years at Davison’s father’s chateau on the Cap d’Antibes in the South of France before returning to England and settled at Walberswick, Suffolk in 1950 and it was not until then that Davison’s artistic career began in earnest..

His landscape paintings of this time betray the impact of Cornwall in their economy of color and descriptive elements and are close to the work of William Scott and Roger Hilton.  By 1952 Davison had begun to work in collage and he never returned to the brush again.  His first showing was at Roland, Browse and Delbanco in 1955 at which nothing sold.  He thereafter worked almost invisibly for 25 years before having a one-man show at the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield in 1981, and another one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford in 1982.  Davison was also included in several group shows and his works have been exhibited regularly at the Redfern Gallery, London, which held a retrospective of his collages in 1986.  When he exhibited at the Hayward Gallery in 1983 he excluded dates and titles from all of the collages on show and requested that no biographical information be included in the catalogue.  The paper is more often torn, than cut, which creates movement and a feeling of freedom in the compositions.  Davison was happy to limit himself to the available paper colors and worked within that palette. In comparison, painters have infinite choices for color variations and combinations.  He died at Walberswick in 1984, aged 65.  Francis Davison has still to be fully acknowledged as one of the major British abstract artists and colourists of the 20th century.

Information provided by Tony Copsey, researcher of artists in Suffolk County, England

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