Greenwich Village resident Stuart Davis, who died in 1964, is best known as an artist who embraced the 20th century’s abstract styles, depicting modernist and cubist still lifes and landscapes with intense color.
[Above, “Tenement Scene,” 1912]
Yet in the early years of the 20th century, he started out as a student of Robert Henri.
Henri was a social realist painter who was a prominent member of the Ashcan School, a loose-knit group of artists who preferred to show the darker side of urban life. [Below, “Chinatown,” 1912]
Henri’s influence can be seen in some of Davis’ melancholy, realist paintings of city streets and buildings and the people who inhabit them, painted when he was only 20 years old. [Below, “Bleecker Street,” 1912]
Like other Ashcan artists, Davis showed his work at the famous 1913 Armory Show, which brought avant-garde art to American audiences.
“In the following years Davis abandoned his Ashcan realist style and experimented with a variety of modern European styles, including Post-Impressionism and Cubism,” states the website for the Museum of Modern Art.
They certainly have their merits, but there’s something about these moody scenes from the New York of 1912 that capture the city’s humanity.
[Right: Davis in 1940]