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 John Byrne Davenport  (1914 - 1981)

About: John Byrne Davenport


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Lived/Active: Illinois/New York      Known for: portrait head and bas relief sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
John Byrne Davenport, my father, was raised in Ithaca, NY, where his father was professor and dean of Economics at Cornell.  His father died in ’31, when John was 17.  About 1932-33, he headed south to Rollins College for a few years though he did not finish.  Then, with his inheritance, he went to Europe, France and Italy from about 1933 to 1936.  He studied at an École des Beaux-Arts school where he learned to draw and presumably studied sculpture. When he returned to America about 1936, he went to Provincetown, Rhode Island.  

He did travel to Cranbook to study with Gaston Lachaise but found out that Lachaise was not going to be there that semester, so returned he to Provincetown where stayed with the artists’ community there until the war pulled him to New York City. 

He enlisted in the service, but was put on inactive duty because he was deaf in one ear.  He wrote scripts for the Signal Corp Photographic Department in Flushing Meadows, Queens, where he learned the craft that would support him for the rest of his life.  In 1950-51, he took a job with Wilding Studios in Chicago, and he stayed in that area for the rest of his life, until 1981, where he died at the age of 67.

In Europe. he learned to draw with a grid, and he sculpted with an armature of chicken wire and plastinine clay.  Then the mold was cast with various materials, from concrete to plaster of Paris.  I remember several bas reliefs.  Several portrait heads, a portrait bust of a woman with mirror and brush in hand was in pink poured stone.  He did a large sculpture of a two sided bas relief about 24x36x8, presumably of poured concrete, which I think my step mother left in Northbrook when she moved to Ohio.  He lost his mother early when he was five or six years old, and it showed in his work and his life.

In Chicago his skills extended to the visual and verbal down the page of a script.  He worked in a studio in the garage in Northbrook.  He prided himself on his carpentry skills.  He raised two children.  One of them turned out to be an artist and writer, the other raised children.

Submitted by Jennifer Davenport, oldest of two daughters of the artist

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