• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2058

    Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    4 December 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 28

    Stuart Davis (1892-1964)

    Egg Beater

    Price Realised  


    Stuart Davis (1892-1964)
    Egg Beater
    signed 'Stuart Davis' (lower right)--signed again, dated '1927' and inscribed with title (on the reverse)
    gouache, ink and pencil on paper
    14½ x 17½ in. (36.8 x 44.5 cm.), image size; 15½ x 18¼ in. (39.3 x 46.4 cm.), sheet size

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    The Egg Beater series is one of the most famous and important bodies of work in Stuart Davis' career. He concentrated solely on the seminal series for a year from 1927 to 1928 completing thirteen works in addition to Egg Beater: four major oil paintings, all of which are in museum collections: Egg Beater No. 1 (1927, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), Egg Beater No. 2 (1928, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas), Egg Beater No. 3 (1928, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts), Egg Beater No. 4 (1928, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.); and a study drawing and gouache for each, with the exception of Egg Beater No. 3 for which he painted two gouaches.

    Davis wrote of his subject, "I nailed an electric fan, a rubber glove and an eggbeater to a table and used it as my exclusive subject matter for a year. The pictures were known as the Eggbeater [sic] series and aroused some interested comment in the press, even though they retained no recognizable reference to the optical appearance of their subject matter." (quoted in K. Wilkin, Stuart Davis, New York, 1987, p. 104) Focusing on a single, fixed still life for a year allowed Davis to explore the spatial relations inherent to the objects. It is these associations and interactions that he took as his subject, rather than the mere transcription of the objects, producing abstract works that bear little physical resemblance to the actual items. This proved to be a formative exercise as Davis would continue to explore the color-space relations of objects for the remainder of his career. Davis acknowledged the significance of this series in his oeuvre writing in 1945, "You might say that everything I have done since has been based on that eggbeater idea." (quoted in L.S. Sims, Stuart Davis, New York, 1991, p. 190)

    Egg Beater is a radical reinterpretation not only of the subject elements, but also of the traditional genre of still life painting. While it is possible to determine some aspects of the fan, glove and eggbeater, the still life is analyzed and distilled so as to create an abstract composition. Davis flattens the space and reduces his subject to a series of interlocking, variously colored planes as a tension that energizes the composition emerges from their discourse. The artist also experiments with pattern and overdrawing, pictorial aspects that he would continue to investigate throughout his career. There is a strong inter-relation between all the works in the series and, as one of the earliest in the group, many of the elements in the present work appear variously in the four oil paintings.


    The artist.
    [With]The Downtown Gallery, New York.
    Mr. Harris B. Steinberg, New York, acquired from the above, 1957.
    Estate of the above.
    Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 4 March 1970, lot 22.
    [With]Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, New York, acquired from the above.
    [With]Carlen Galleries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, acquired from the above.
    Mr. and Mrs. George Berman, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, acquired from the above, 1972.
    Christie's, New York, 2 December 1998, lot 112.
    Michael Altman & Co., Inc., New York, acquired from the above.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1999.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from a Private American Collection


    J.R. Lane, Stuart Davis: Art and Theory, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1978, pp. 103, 105, no. 16, illustrated (as Study for Egg Beater #3).
    A. Boyajian and M. Rutkoski, Stuart Davis: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, Connecticut, 2007, vol. 1, p. 162, vol. 2, p. 544, no. 1108, illustrated.


    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Outlines Gallery, Stuart Davis, March 3-31, 1946.
    Chattanooga, Tennessee, University of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Art Association, Contemporary Watercolors, April 15-May 1, 1949.
    New York, The Downtown Gallery, Christmas at The Downtown Gallery, November 23-December 24, 1954.
    Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University, Indiana University Art Museum, April 1956.
    Riverdale, New York, Horace Mann School, American Art, 1962.
    Brooklyn, New York, The Brooklyn Museum, and elsewhere, Stuart Davis: Art and Art Theory, January 21-March 19, 1978, no. 16 (as Study for Egg Beater No. 3).