Stuart Davis (1892-1964)
Stuart Davis (1892-1964)
Stuart Davis (1892-1964)
Stuart Davis (1892-1964)
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Modern Icons: Property from an Important Private Collection
STUART DAVIS (1892-1964)

Coast Town Landscape Study

STUART DAVIS (1892-1964)
Coast Town Landscape Study
signed 'Stuart Davis' (lower right)
oil on canvas
10 x 14 in. (25.4 x 35.6 cm.)
Painted in 1940.
The artist.
The Downtown Gallery, New York.
William Steig, New York, circa 1944-45.
Private collection, Scarsdale, New York.
Christie's, New York, 22 May 1980, lot 269, sold by the above.
Stephen Lion, New York, acquired from the above.
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.
Jean and Alvin Snowiss, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, acquired from the above, 1987.
Debra Force Fine Art, New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2016.
A. Boyajian, M. Rutkowski, Stuart Davis: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, CT, 2007, vol. II, p. 529; vol. III, pp. 312-13, no. 1625, illustrated.
(Probably) Washington, D.C., National Art Week Exhibition, November 25-December 1, 1940 (as Art Space #3).
New York, Art for China, March-April 8, 1941 (as Art Space #3).
New York, The Artist's Gallery, Group Exhibition, June 9-30, 1941.
New York, The Downtown Gallery, Downstairs Exhibition, October 10-November 4, 1961.
La Jolla, California, Jefferson Gallery, Roots of Abstract Art in America, April 17-May 28, 1966, no. 3 (as Coastown Landscape).
New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., Selections: Stuart Davis Exhibition, October 3-25, 1986, no. 16.
University Park, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University, Palmer Museum of Art, An Endless Panorama of Beauty: Selection from the Jean and Alvin Snowiss Collection of American Art, November 12, 2002-May 16, 2003, pp. 26-27, illustrated.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

Coast Town Landscape Study is the final work from a series of three "Art Space" compositions of the same scale, all inspired by a 1924 watercolor titled Gloucester Harbor in the collection of the Butler Art Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. Other works from the series include the first, Art Space #1 (1940, Slong & Midas Properties, Inc., New York) and the second, Triatic (1940 and 1951, Private collection, Pennsylvania).

Informed by his physical surroundings and often the aural harmonies of Jazz, Stuart Davis’ work earned him the title the “Ace of American Modernism” and his powerful visual symphonies, such as Coast Town Landscape Study, are enduring icons of what it meant to be an American artist in the first half of the twentieth century. Based on his 1924 watercolor yet executed over a decade later, the present work embodies the “Amazing Continuity” found between the artist’s early works and his later, more abstracted approach. With a lusciously rendered surface and ebullient composition, in Coast Town Landscape Study, Davis utilizes vibrant color to create a dynamic composition with Cubist influences and proto-Pop style.

Coast Town Landscape Study is the most vibrant of the three paintings Davis rendered in 1940 based off his 1924 watercolor. In the present work, Davis forgoes the muted browns and tans of his earlier composition in favor of high-keyed hues of crimson, turquoise, and lavender. Deliberately interlocking forms, color and pattern, Davis brilliantly juxtaposes the geometric against the bustling townscape in the background to render just a hint of perception. Simultaneously, the front and center written “M” rests at the center of the composition—its one letter just giving a sense of written signage without any confirmation of confirmed place.

Davis’ knowledge of and interaction with Abstraction and European Modernism are clearly evident in the present work. The work of Henri Matisse such as The Codomas (Les Codomas) from Jazz (1947, The Museum of Modern Art, New York) was a source of inspiration for Davis, as was the palette of Paul Gauguin and the Synthetic Cubism of George Braque and Pablo Picasso. However, Davis also maintained a remarkable dedication to presenting classic American subjects throughout the entirety of his 50-plus years of work. Agee suggests that “besides the rich color, the way Davis’s compositions are constructed, with each shape having its own, autonomous identity and position—as if placed in as well as on the canvas…brings to mind Matisse’s cutouts.” (Stuart Davis: American Painter, New York, 1991, pp. 93-94) Additionally, Agee argues that the directness, surface patterning and rich lines of black and white can be seen as paralleling, and perhaps even responding to, the works of Abstract Expressionists like Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. Davis’ distinct brand of almost proto-Pop work also seems to directly foreshadow, if not influence, the generation of Pop artists who followed him, including Roy Lichtenstein.

Radiant and reverberating with a palpable energy, Coast Town Landscape Study embodies Davis at the peak of his craft. Indeed, Diane Kelder has observed, “Davis’s gestation of modern concepts was longer than that of most of his contemporaries and it produced a more original assimilation. When the initial enthusiasm for European vanguard art gave way to political and cultural isolationism in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Davis emerged as American modernism’s champion; he was the only major painter who never lost faith in its progressive character, nor his determination to reconcile the formal and philosophic issues it raised with the quality of the American experience.” (Stuart Davis: American Painter, New York, 1991, p. 17)

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