ART: Stewart Davis… America’s Jazz Painter

LANDSCAPE WITH CLAY PIPE (1941) by Stewart Davis, Oil on Canvas. This painting is a variation of the Radio City Music Hall mural.

“Stuart Davis: In Full Swing” 

Artist Stuart Davis (1892 – 1964), was an early American modernist painter who spent time living in Paris as well as in New York City. He is remembered for his bright and colorful paintings of the 1940s and 1950s that were influenced by jazz and were considered to be an early inspiration for the Pop artists of the 1960s.

“Champion” painting by Stewart Davis. Based on matchbook box advertising Champion spark plugs.

Stuart Davis is one of the preeminent figures of American modernism. With a long career that stretched from the early twentieth century well into the postwar era, he brought a distinctively American accent to international modernism. Faced with the choice between realism and pure abstraction early in his career, Davis invented a vocabulary that harnessed the grammar of abstraction to the speed and simultaneity of modern America. By merging the bold, hard-edged style of advertising with the conventions of European avant-garde painting, he created an art endowed with the vitality and dynamic rhythms that he saw as uniquely modern and American. In the process, he achieved a rare synthesis: an art that is resolutely abstract, yet at the same time exudes the spirit of popular culture.

“Salt Shaker” (1931) oil on canvas

The exhibition is unusual in its focus on Davis’s mature career and on his working method of using preexisting motifs as springboards for new compositions. From 1939 on, Davis rarely painted a work that did not make reference, however hidden, to one or more of his earlier compositions. Such “appropriation” is a distinctive aspect of his mature art. This presentation is the first major exhibition to consistently hang Davis’s later works side by side with the earlier ones that inspired them. With approximately one hundred works, from his paintings of consumer products in the early 1920s to the work left on his easel at his death in 1964, the exhibition highlight Davis’s unique ability to transform the chaos of everyday life into a structured yet spontaneous order that communicates the wonder and joy that can be derived from the color and spatial relationships of everyday things.

“Rapt at Rappaport’s” (1951-1952) The polka dots refer to the store Rappaport’s, Toy Bazzar in NYC, it used polka dotted wrapping paper… a pun in the title.


“Stuart Davis: In Full Swing” was at Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC & Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.

(Source: Text Whitney Museum of art press dept., Photos were taken with permission, by ARTS & FOOD staff, at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.)


Stuart Davis Landscape with Saw 1922 oil and pencil on canvas mounted on board


“Semé” (1953)oil on canvas – A French word meaning “scattered” or “sown” like the many shapes on the canvas.


“Ultra-Marine” reflects a shift in Davis’s art, when he began to create allover designs using shapes equal in size, color intensity across the canvas.


“Landscape with Clay Pipe” (1941) based on Stewart’s Radio City Music Hall mural.


Stuart Davis


“New York Mural” (1932)
“New York Mural” (1932) detail
“New York Mural” (1932) detail
“New York Mural” (1932) detail
“New York Mural” (1932) detail
“New York Mural” (1932) detail
“New York Mural” (1932) detail
“New York Mural” (1932) detail
“New York Mural” (1932) detail
“New York Mural” (1932) detail
“New York Mural” (1932) detail


“Landscape with a Clay Pipe” Line Painting
“Landscape with a Clay Pipe” Line Painting deail


“The Terminal” (1937) oil on canvas


“Composition” (1939) Gouache on paper


“Bass Rocks #2” oil on canvas – Rocks, water, and beach near Gloucester.


“Bass Rocks #1” (1939) oil on canvas
“Artists Against War and Fascism” (1936) Gouache and pencil on paper.


“Men and Machine” (1934) oil on canvas.


“Coordinates #2” Gouache on paper.


“Red Cart” (1932) oil on canvas.


“House and Street” (1931) oil on canvas. (Front Street in Lower Manhattan)


“Arch Hotel” Paris Hotel


“Place Des Vosges No. 2” (1928) Paris residence of writer Victor Hugo.


“Landscape with Garage Lights” (1931-1932) oil on canvas.


“Summer Landscape” Rockport. Mass.


“Place Pasdeloup” (1928) oil on canvas



“Still Life: Radio Tube” (1931) oil on canvas.






“Super Table” (1925) oil on canvas


“Odol” (1924) he enjoyed painting household products, pre-dating the POP era.


“Lucky Strike” (1924) oil on paperboard.


James Kalm takes a tour of the exhibition “Stuart Davis In Full Swing!” at the Whitney Museum of American Art – the whole video runs approx 40 minutes.



To listen to the Whitney Audio Guides for this exhibition click this link:



Stuart Davis In Full Swing book By Barbara Haskell and Harry Cooper

This book pays tribute to the mature work of Stuart Davis, a distinctly American artist who adapted European modernism to reflect the sights, sounds, and rhythms of popular culture.


Stuart Davis’ signature.