Arthur Bowen Davies 1862 —1928


Arthur B. Davies was pivotal in organizing the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show, bringing avant gard European artists to America; Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky,  Alexander Archipenko,  Odilon Redon, Georges Braque, Georges Rouault, Marcel Duchamp, Frances Picabia, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Mary Cassatt, Manet, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec,  James McNeill Whistler,  The Armory show brought Symbolism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Cubism, to American artists and collectors visiting its three venues in the ‘New World’; New York, Chicago and Boston.  Davies was himself, a painter more attached late 19th century French influences, particularly the stylized, symbolist works of Puvis de Chavannes.  He was a muralist and printmaker of visionary landscapes inhabited by dreamy, Arcadian figures, whose works found great support among collectors as can be seen by the enormous list of museums with his collected his works – but who will  forever by remembered for his role in introducing modernism to America.

Born in Utica, New York, Davies showed an early interest in mechanics, sports and art.  He first studied privately with Dwight Williams in Utica and when the family moved to Chicago in 1878, he enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Design and studied under Toy Robertson.  He soon left for the West. Davies joined an expedition to Mexico as a civil engineer, traveling to the post by horseback after spending time with the Blackfeet Indians in the Dakota Territory in 1880.  By 1882, he was back in Chicago where he enrolled at the Art Institute School to study with Charles Corwin.  From Chicago he moved to New York City in 1885  where he studied at the Art Students League and Gotham Art Students League, while supporting himself doing billboard painting, engineering draftsman projects, and magazine illustration.  

In 1893, he made the first of many trips to Europe, visiting Holland, Paris, and London, studying contemporary art on the Continent. . During  this period his works were keenly influenced by  Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, French Symbolist Painter and Mural Painter of the second half of the 19th century and  the Dutch realist painters, the Maris brothers.  Upon his return to the United States, he again traveled throughout the United States.  His marriage to a medical doctor, Virginia Davis, in 1892 prompted a move to Congers New York, where Davies tried unsuccessfully to farm.  The neighboring countryside, however, became a new backdrop for his watercolors, pastels and small oil panels of the period.  He continued to exhibit in New York and, with the support of his dealer, William Macbeth, was able to spend time in Europe in 1893, studying the work of the Venetian’s, the Pre-Raphaelites and the German Romantics.  Three years later Macbeth held a one-man show for Davies, which guaranteed him a wide circle of patrons.   By 1900, the artist was having major domestic difficulties.  He began living with Edna Potter, a model, in New York City, and assumed the name of David A Owen within this second group of family and friends.  He kept these two separate identities to the end of his life.  His artistic friends in New York who knew him as Davies included Marsden Hartley, Rockwell Kent, Walt Kuhn and the members of the so-called Ashcan School (Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast) with whom he exhibited at Macbeth’s famous show of The Eight in 1908.

In 1911, Davies was elected President of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors and, with Walter Pach, Kuhn and others, organized the first major show of modern art in this country, known as the Armory Show of 1913.  Davies was the primary creative and administrative force behind the pivotal Armory Show, which first brought the full force of Modernism to the United States.  Davies's involvement with the Modern artists is reflected in his production of cubist-inspired works during the period.   Also during this period, he was advising the collector Lillie P Bliss, whose Post-Impressionist masterpieces later became the foundation of the Museum of Modern Art.  Davies’ past-Armory work, under the strong influence of the Synchromism of Morgan Russell and Stanton Macdonald-Wright, combined the interpenetrating planes of Cubism with his figural representations.

In 1924 Davies executed murals for Bliss and for the International House in New York.  He also produced, in his lifetime, about eighty works in bronze and wood and numerous lithographs, aquatints and etchings,  The ;last decade saw a return to his romanticized figure works, which show the influence of the theories of “inhalation,” in which the models posed while holding their breath.  In the twenties, Davies also began to divide his time between New York and Europe, first in Paris and the in Florence.

Davies was certainly well respected and widely collected in his own day.  His contribution to the promotion of progressive American art are critical to its development.  Arthur B Davies died in Florence in 1928. The Metropolitan Museum of Art held a memorial exhibition two years after his death.  

An important source for modern and contemporary American & European Art in East Hampton, New York & worldwide, Janet Lehr Fine Arts' spectacular wide-ranging inventory consists of unique paintings, drawings, large & small scale sculpture, monotypes, prints and photographs  by Ansel Adams, Milton Avery, Richard Avedon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Fernando Botero, Cartier-Bresson, Marc Chagall, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Willem De Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, David Hockney, Winslow Homer, Wolf Kahn, Jeff Koons, Fernand Leger, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Thomas Moran, Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Cindy Sherman, Charles Sheeler, Bert Stern, Alfred Stieglitz, Andy Warhol, Carleton E Watkins, Tom Wesselmann and Andrew Wyeth.

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View synoptic biography below.

The Lonely Sheppard

The Lonely Sheppard
Oil on canvas

11.5 x 13 inches

His work is represented in over 100 museums including:

Addison Gallery of American Art; Allen Memorial Art Museum; Arizona State University Art Museum; Arnot Art Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; Ball State University Museum of Art; Boca Raton Museum of Art; Brandywine River Museum; Butler Institute of American Art; Cantor Arts Center, Stanford; Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh/Carnegie ; Cheekwood Museum of Art & Botanical Garden; Chrysler Museum of Art; Cincinnati Art Museum; Colby College Museum of Art; Colorado Historical Society; Crocker Art Museum; Delaware Art Museum; Denver Art Museum; Everson Museum Of Art; Flint Institute of Arts; Frederick R Weisman Art Museum; George Walter Vincent Smith Museum; Georgia Museum of Art; Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art; High Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Hunter Museum of American Art; Indianapolis Museum of Art;  Jack S Blanton Museum of Art; Joslyn Art Museum; LaSalle University Art Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Lyman Allyn Museum; Maier Museum of Art; Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum; Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum; Mead Art Museum; Memorial Art Gallery; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Michael C Carlos Museum; Michelson Museum of Art; Middlebury College Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Minnesota Museum of American Art; Mobile Museum of Art; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts; Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute; Musees Nationaux Paris; Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia; Museum of Art at Brigham Young University; Museum of Art at Brigham Young University; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of New Mexico; Muskegon Museum of Art; National Gallery of Art;  Neuberger Museum of Art; New Jersey State Museum; New Orleans Museum of Art; Oakland Museum of California; Oklahoma City Museum of Art; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Phoenix Art Museum; Portland Art Museum; Reading Public Museum; Rhode Island School of Design-Museum of Art; Robert Hull Fleming Museum; Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College; San Diego Museum of Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Sheldon Museum of Art; Sheldon Swope Art Museum; Smithsonian American Art Museum ; Telfair Museum of Art; The Arkell Museum at Canajoharie; The Art Museum, Princeton University; The Brooklyn Museum of Art; The Columbus Museum of Art-OhioThe Columbus Museum-Georgia; The Dayton Art Institute; The Detroit Institute of Arts; The Detroit Institute of Arts; The Hickory Museum of Art; The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art; The John H. Vanderpoel Art Association; The Montclair Art Museum; The Museum of Modern Art; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; The Newark Museum; The Parrish Art Museum; The Phillips Collection; The Toledo Museum of Art; The University of Arizona Museum of Art; The University of Michigan Museum of Art; The WashingtonCounty Museum of Fine Arts; University of Wyoming Art MuseumUSC Fisher Gallery; USC Fisher Gallery; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Worcester Art Museum; and  Yale University Art Gallery .

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