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Arthur Bowen Davies (1862-1928).

( Originally Published 1955 )

American Romantic painter born in Utica, N.Y. He began to sketch in the Mohawk Valley at an early age; after his family moved to Chicago in 1878 he studied art with Roy Robertson at the Chicago Academy of Design. In 1880, he went to Mexico as a civil engineer and stayed two years. On his return, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and coming to New York in 1886 attended the Gotham Art Students and the Art Students League. He settled in Congers, N.Y., where he painted and did magazine illustrations. Discovered by the dealer William Macbeth, who persuaded Benjamin Altman to finance a European trip in 1893, he came under many new influences-the Venetians, the German Romantics, the PreRaphaelites, Whistler, and Puvis de Chavannes. His early works, under the influence of the Venetians, are pastoral scenes in rich color and heavy impasto, but c. 1903 his style became more romantically idyllic-remote visions of dainty and enigmatic figures. After a trip to California in 1905 his style, affected by Western scenery, became more monumental and solemn, with landscape overwhelming figures. Elected president of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, he was a key figure in the organization of the Armory Show (see) in 1913. He was himself influenced by the new movements, especially Cubism, and experimented with rhythmic geometric forms, executing murals for the home of Lillie P. Bliss, whose art advisor he was, and Dancers (Detroit Institute of Arts). In the early 1920's he tried to recapture his earlier style and, under the influence of the inhalation theories of Gustav Eisen, reworked earlier paintings and drawings. He also executed many lithographs and etchings and in his later years worked on designs for Gobelin tapestries. Essentially intellectual and eclectic, his art exhibits a self-conscious search for idyllic beauty and a personal style. Through it all he retained his affinity for the Romantics, for Blake and Ryder.

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