Oil on canvas
30 1/8 x 38 1/4 inches
Wichita Art Museum, Gift of Mr. Kurt A. Olden
Not Currently on Display
About the Artwork
The well-known American painter, Stuart Davis, is sometimes looked upon as the father of Pop Art. And understandably so, since so many of his paintings of the 1920s include such word images as JAZZ as well as various depictions of product advertising objects such as labels or cigarette packets, together organized in purely abstract designs. But Davis began his career by painting scenes of everyday life, and in 1913 when he was only 19 years of age, he was represented in the well-known Armory Show with five paintings. At that time his work showed strong evidence of the influence of Robert Henri under whom he had studied, and his technique reflected not only Henri’s influence but also his own special enthusiasm for such modern European masters as Van Gogh and Gauguin.
This work, titled Windy Day, is one of Davis’ very early paintings, executed in 1912. Here the high horizon and sweeping diagonals impart a dynamic compositional quality which in turn is intensified by the restless movement of blown leaves and bent trees and bushes that suggests the high winds of a brewing storm. In the lower right-hand corner, a small child wearing a red jacket clutches her mother, while in the upper left a man hastens to take shelter from the storm. But the theme alone would be less effective in communicating this mood were it not for the lively bravura in the handling of the brushstrokes. Even more significant, however, is the manner in which Davis relies upon the counter play of colors, especially throughout the right side of the composition where, for example, the child’s red jacket plays sharply against the luscious dark green trees above and at the same time dramatically contrasts with the fluttering white dress worn by the protective mother. This energetic color sense is in turn harmoniously keyed to the rather animated organization of the forms themselves. And in a very real sense these are the formal ingredients that Davis came to use later on in his more mature abstract compositions.
Stuart Davis was born in Philadelphia in 1894. His mother was a sculptress and his father was the Art Director of the Philadelphia Press where Davis had the unique opportunity to meet many of the young illustrators on the news staff who later became famous as the Ash Can painters, including Sloan, Luks, Shinn and Glackens. At the age of 15 Davis settled in New York City and studied with Robert Henri. In 1913 he was represented at the Armory Show. By 1920 his style had shifted into a strong abstract manner, which characterized his works throughout the remainder of his career. During the 1930s Depression under the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration, he executed a number of important abstract murals in such sites as Radio City Music Hall and the World’s Fair of 1939. His works are found in major collections throughout the world. At the age of 69 Davis died in New York City in 1964.