Director Emeritus Grant Holcomb speaks about this object.
Stuart Davis is the perfect bridge between the urban realism of the Ashcan School (which is so well represented in our collection) and the development of abstraction in American art. And Landscape with Garage Lights reflects this interest in the American scene (here Gloucester, Massachusetts) and, at the same time, the absorption of the modernist lessons of Braque, Picasso and Matisse.
Like many of the Ashcan painters, Davis grew up in Philadelphia and even studied with Robert Henri, the inspirational leader of that group. But by 1913, he was aware of the more radical works of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse and began to experiment with abstraction.
Here Davis responds to the energy and vitality that he found near the Gloucester waterfront. Bright, brilliant colors, overlapping forms, curvilinear lines and animated patterns all combine to express his spirited response to the scene.
As the geometric simplification of objects, flat planes and bold shapes of intense color and even the incorporation of words within the composition reflect some of the lessons of modernism in art, so, too, do the power lines, telephone poles, gas tanks and electric lights bespeak the industrial transformation of the landscape in the 20th century. Davis retains a sense of place (the actual) within this formal vocabulary of modernism, (abstraction).
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