Stuart Davis: In Full Swing
One of the great figures of 20th-century painting, Stuart Davis has been hailed as a precursor of both pop art and contemporary abstraction. As this double legacy suggests, he achieved a rare synthesis, an art of formal brilliance and complexity that captured the energy of mass culture and modern life. Beginning in 1921, a series of breakthroughs led Davis from his American realist roots to a more abstract approach to the world around him. Inspired by Cézanne, Léger, Matisse, Miró, Picasso, and Seurat, he developed a style that fused American urban experience with European modernism, evolving over the next four decades to become a dominant force in postwar art.
This beautifully illustrated exhibition catalog features approximately 100 works, from Davis’s 1921 paintings of tobacco packages to his abstract Egg Beater series of the late twenties, the ambitious WPA murals of the thirties, and the bold works of his last two decades, in which jagged shapes and bright colors tangle with vigorous calligraphy. The authors take a critical approach to the development of Davis’s art and theory, paying special attention to his transformative recycling of earlier works. A detailed chronology, drawing on previously unpublished sources and incorporating much of Davis’s writing, represents the most complete biography to date, painting a vivid picture of economic hardship, political activism, personal struggle, and eventual triumph. Together, these elements bring to life a great artist who assimilated cubism, pop culture, advertising, and jazz—his musical passion—in works that hum with intelligence and energy.
About the Authors
Barbara Haskell is curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Harry Cooper is curator of modern art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
- 10 x 12 inches
- 260 pages, 209 illustrations
- Published: 2016