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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: 20th century: A Greater Morning
Arthur B. Davies

Arthur B. Davies

(born Utica, NY 1862 -- died Florence, Italy 1928)

“Art is nature seen through the prism of an emotion . . .” Arthur B. Davies

Arthur B. Davies sold his first sculpture, a small, detailed sailboat carved with a pocketknife, at age twelve for twenty-five dollars. He began formal art training with a private instructor and studied in Chicago, New York City, and Europe. In 1908 he exhibited with The Eight, a group of artists who opposed traditional academic art, and in 1913 was a major organizer for the Armory Show at New York, which brought different types of modern art to the public. His art was mysterious, often based on dreams, and portrayed beautiful, fantastic scenes populated with elegant nudes. Davies studied phrenology, the “science” of the contours of the head, and always maintained that a small bump on the back of his skull was a sign of his creative nature. Although Davies had a wife and children, he maintained a twenty-five-year affair with his former model. He went to great lengths to keep this secret, and even created a pseudonym, David A. Owen, and maintained two separate residences.

Image Credits: Courtesy Peter A. Juley & Son Collection