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 Randall Vernon Davey  (1887 - 1964)

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/New York/California/New Jersey      Known for: genre-horse, landscape, portrait, nude

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Randall Vernon Davey
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in East Orange, New Jersey, Randall Davey became an influential figure in early 20th century art including the art community of Santa Fe.  He became a painter of portraits, still lifes, nude figures, and horse-racing genre, especially scenes of polo matches.

Davey studied architecture at Cornell University from 1905 to 1907, then left for New York City to attend Robert Henri's School of Painting and the Art Students League.  He and Henri became good friends, and in 1910, traveled throughout Europe together.

In 1913, Davey was one of the exhibitors at the landmark Armory Show exhibition, where modern art was introduced on a large scale to the American public.  In 1915, Davey took the National Academy of Design's Second Hallgarten Prize, and won honorable mention at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

Davey married Florence Nicks Sittenham of New York on May 19, 1911.  That summer Davey painted with Henri and Bellows on Monhegan Island, Maine.  Soon after he was appointed assistant instructor in Henri's summer painting classes in Spain.  In 1913, Randall and Florence had their first son, William.  They divorced in 1930, and he was married to Isabel Holt in 1932.

Davey and fellow painter/friend John Sloan were both students of Robert Henri, who had encouraged them to visit New Mexico.  They and their wives headed West from New York City in a Simplex open touring car for an extended trip in 1919.  They intended to camp but spent most nights in hotels and said that the hardest part of the trip was "getting their wives out of the hotel in the morning." Upon arriving, the travelers fell in love with the surroundings, and the Daveys decided to settle in Santa Fe where the Daveys purchased an old mill outside of town and converted it into a studio.

Unlike many artists of his time in the West, Davey did not make a practice of painting Indians.  A vast majority of his subjects were nudes, which he rendered in a bold, brightly colored, Post-Impressionist style.  A lover of horses and horse racing, Davey often used them as subjects in his works and not always from the spectator's viewpoint.  His goal in these paintings was to capture the "nervous excitement and intensity" of the racetrack experience.  When he taught at the Broadmoor Art Academy in 1924, his salary was twice the standard rate because of his skill in the game of polo and his necessity to maintain a string of ponies and keep up with the social set that followed the sport.

During his career, Davey was also commissioned to do several murals, some of which are in the Will Rogers Memorial Shrine in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Davey received many awards, including: second Julius Hallgarten Prize from National Academy of Design, for Young Woman in Brown, and Honorable Mention from Panama Pacific Exposition, for Lighthouse Keeper.  In 1938 National Academician and Thomas B. Clarke American Figure Composition Prize, National Academy of Design, for Goose Hunters.

Randall Davey was a member of the National Academy of Design, National Association of Mural Painters, National Association of Portrait Painters, Board of Directors of Independent Artists, Taos Society of Artists, New Mexico Painters, and the Painter-Gravers Society.

In 1931, he was a member of the selection committee of the Broadmoor Art Academy, and served as a juror for the Carnegie International Exhibition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Also he served as juror for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia exhibition and in 1939 for The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Biennial Exhibition.

His work may be found in the Art Institute of Chicago; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Cleveland Museum of Art; Delaware Art Institute, Wilmington; Detroit Institute of Arts; Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design, Missouri; Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey; Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe; Nelson Gallery of Art, Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City, Missouri; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; and the Will Rogers Memorial Shrine, Colorado Springs.

A noted art instructor, Davey held teaching positions at the School of Art, Art Institute of Chicago (1920), the Kansas City Art Institute (1921-1924), Broadmoor Art Academy, and at the University of New Mexico (1945-1956). Elected honorary member at the School of American Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1957.

Davey died, at age 77, in a car accident in 1964, on the way to California.

Sources:

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

The National Audubon Society, http://www.audubon.org/chapter/nm/nm/rdac/house/house.html

Wagner, Cuba and Cunningham, Pike's Peak Vision: The Broadmoor Art Academy, 1919-1945


Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
Randall Davey was born in East Orange, New Jersey in 1887. From an inauspicious childhood in a middle-class family, he would go on to become a highly-influential early 20th century painter of still lifes, horse-racing and polo scenes, nudes and landscapes. Davey's transformation from suburban child to noted artist began when he went to Cornell University to study architecture in 1905. Though he would not finish his degree, it nonetheless gave him a notion of aesthetic principles and form that would prove valuable later in life. Against the wishes of his father , Davey left Cornell in 1908 and moved to New York in order to pursue a career in art.

Davey entered the New York School of Art, where he was fortuitous enough to take instruction from Robert Henri, an art academic who taught many of the Ashcan School and Taos Society artists, as well as being himself a member of both communities. Henri and Davey forged a strong friendship that was not compromised when Henri left to start his own art school the following year and Davey did not follow, choosing instead to study under Charles W. Hawthorne. Soon, Hawthorne left, as well, in order to join Henri at the new institution, and Devey was reunited with him.

In 1910, Davey exhibited work alongside such artists as George Bellows and Stuart Davis. He became an accepted member of this small community of artists, traveling with Henri to Europe, Maine, Spain and San Francisco. He became Henri's assistant instructor and, in 1913, took part in the Armory Show, which forever changed the face of American art. His career accelerated after the Armory show and, in 1915, he won the National Academy of Design's Hallgarten Prize, as well as an honorable mention at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition.

Deeply opposed to American entry in the First World War, Davey spent 1917 in Cuba, avoiding the draft. Once he returned to New York, his career faltered. He exhibited only two paintings in 1919, winning no awards. That same year, Davey persuaded John Sloan to travel with him to Santa Fe, NM. Once in Santa Fe, Davey and his wife knew that were not leaving. He purchased an unused mill on the edge of town and converted it to a studio and, the next year, he and his wife moved permanently.

While Davey maintained a home in Santa Fe until his death, he took a number of prestigious teaching positions over the years, including at the Broadmoor Art Academy, the Chicago Institute of Art, the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design and the University of New Mexico. In 1938, he was elected into the National Academy of Design and in 1939 juried a show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Though he chose to be an artist, Davey's tastes ran rich for such a famously meager-paying profession. He was an avid polo player, and his teaching salary was as high as twice that of other teachers because of the necessity of boarding and maintaining a string of polo ponies. Polo was one of his favorite subjects, as well, and he painted marvelous scenes of polo matches and those who attended them. He was an early driver of automobiles, as well; he and Sloan had reached Santa Fe by automobile, long before they became a commonplace sight. Ironically and tragically, it was a car that separated him from Santa Fe and his art, as he died in a car accident in 1964 on his way to California. He was 77 years old.

Biography from David Cook Galleries:
Born in East Orange, New Jersey, Randall Vernon Davey was a muralist, printmaker, sculptor, painter, and teacher. Davey wished to pursue an art career when he graduated from high school, but his father wanted him to attend college. In 1905, Davey entered the liberal arts program at Cornell University. He later transferred to the school of architecture before he left the school in 1908 without finishing his studies. He left Cornell in order to pursue his art career, and he began studying at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri and Charles W. Hawthorne. Davey’s artistic style was strongly influenced by Henri, and his artistic approach was strongly influenced by Hawthorne. Hawthorne liked to explore the psyche and character of his subjects, and Davey began to do the same with his own subjects.

In 1910, Davey toured Europe with Henri. When he returned to the U.S., he painted with George Bellows on Monhegan Island in Maine. In 1912, Davey became the assistant instructor in Henri’s summer painting classes in Spain. Along with Henri, Davey exhibited a painting at the Armory Show in New York in 1913. In 1915, Davey won the National Academy of Design’s Second Hallgarten Prize and an honorable mention at the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Shortly after, he participated in the founding of The Society of Independent Artists.

In 1919, after spending some time in Cuba avoiding military service in WWI, Davey traveled with John Sloan to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Soon after, Davey and his wife settled in Santa Fe and remained there for more than forty years. He was very influential in the art community of Santa Fe. Davey did not paint the Indians of Santa Fe, rather he painted landscapes, portraits, still lifes, nude figures, horse-racing, and polo matches. He was commissioned to do several murals, some of which are at the Will Rogers Memorial Shrine in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Beginning in 1920, Davey taught at the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Chicago Art Institute School, the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design, and the University of New Mexico. In 1938, he was elected membership in the National Academy of Design.

Exhibited: Armory Show, 1913; PAFA, 1913-1949; NAD, 1914-50 (prize, 1915); AIC; Salons of Am.; WMAA; S.Indp.A.; Grand Central Gal, 1939 (prize).

Works held: AIC; CGA; WMAA; Montclair Art Mus.; Kansas City AI; CMA; Detroit Inst. Art; Mus. of New Mexico, Santa Fe; U.S. Navy Dept.; WPA murals, USPO, Vinita, Claremore, OK; Will Roger’s Shrine, Colorado Springs, CO.

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Randall Davey was born in East Orange, New Jersey in 1887, and was raised in a comfortable, middle-class home. (1)  After graduating from high school in 1904, he wished to pursue art as a career, but instead followed his father’s wishes to attend college.  He entered the liberal arts program at Cornell University in 1905, and he later transferred to the school of architecture.  In 1908, he left Cornell without finishing his studies and moved to New York to become an artist.  Davey entered the New York School of Art and began studies under Robert Henri.  The next year, when Henri left the school to found his own, Davey continued his work with Charles W. Hawthorne, who by then had taken over Henri’s classes. (2) Hawthorne had an inclination for exploring the psyche of his subjects, a tendency that Davey was to follow in his own work. (3)

Fundamentally, however, Davey’s painting style was more like that of Henri, and soon Davey left the New York School of Art to study with Henri, and along side other important artists such as George Bellows and Stuart Davis. (4)  In 1910, he exhibited at the group exhibition of Independent Artists, and later toured Europe with Henri. (5)

 In 1911, he traveled with Henri and Bellows to Maine, and the next year he was appointed assistant instructor in Henri’s summer painting classes in Spain.  Davey exhibited one painting at the highly influential Armory Show in 1913 in New York. In 1915, a banner year for the artist, he won the National Academy of Design’s Second Hallgarten Prize, and an honorable mention at the Panama-Pacific Exposition.  In 1916, he participated in the founding of The Society of Independent Artists, and he spent the summer painting in Gloucester, Massachusetts with Sloan and Bellows.

Davey disagreed with the entry of the United States into World War I, and in 1917 when there was a potential risk that he would be called to military service, he elected to spend several months in Cuba.  After his brief stay in Cuba, Davey went back to New York, but his career seems to have begun to falter at this time.  He exhibited two paintings in the Independent Artists show in 1918 and two works in the 1919 exhibition, but he had received no awards since 1915.

Davey suggested to John Sloan that they take a long automobile trip in the summer of 1919.  After six weeks of travel, they reached Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Davey and his wife immediately fell in love with the city. (6)  He purchased an old mill outside of town and converted it into a studio, and the next year he and his wife permanently moved their residence there from New York.  He lived in Santa Fe for more than forty years, and he greatly contributed to the artistic and social scene there.

From 1920 on, he held several teaching positions, including the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Chicago Art Institute School; Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design, and the University of New Mexico.

In 1938, he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Design.  He was commissioned to do several murals, some of which can be found in the Will Rogers Memorial Shrine in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Davey tragically died in car accident in 1964 in Santa Fe.

Davey specialized in portraiture.  Like Hawthorne, he enjoyed discovering the character of his sitter.  There is no evidence that Davey ever painted those scenes of working class life in New York that attracted other Henri associates such as John Sloan and George Bellows. (7) When he moved to Santa Fe, he did not paint the Pueblo Indians as other artists in Santa Fe did.  He did paint Southwest landscapes, and he specialized in nudes rendered in a boldly colored post-impressionistic style. Davey had a particular interest in horses, and produced scenes of polo fields and racetracks. (8)


Sources:
1. Biographical information taken from Donelson F. Hoopes, "Randall Davey, Artist/Bon Vivant, A Retrospective Exhibition" (Santa Fe, NM: Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico, 1984); and Michael David Zellman (compiled by), 300 Years of American Art, 2 vols. (New York: Chelsea House, 1986).

2. Charles Hawthorne (1873-1930) was the founder of the Provincetown, Massachusetts art colony and was one of the principal instructors at the New York School of Art.

3. Hoopes, unpaginated

4. Hoopes feels that Davey combines the influences of both Henri and Hawthorne in realizing a perfect balance between a formal, abstract concern for paint on the canvas and connection with what meaning and emotions lie under the surface. unpaginated

5. The group exhibition of Independent Artists brought together the work of 103 painters and sculptors who shared a concern for finding a new outlet for progressive art expressions in America.

6. During the first two decades of the 20th century, artists from all of the country migrated to artist colonies in Taos and Santa Fe.

7. Hoopes, unpaginated

8. When Davey taught at the Broadmoor Art Academy in 1924, his salary was twice the usual rate because of his polo skills.


Submitted by Kristen Miller Zohn, Columbus Museum

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


Randall Davey is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Taos Pre 1940

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