With its abstract arrangement of colorful forms, "Medium Still Life" demonstrates Davis's use of what he called "color-space." In the late 1920s, the artist had developed the idea that the juxtaposition of strong colors could create spatial relationships within a painting, without the use of...
With its abstract arrangement of colorful forms, "Medium Still Life" demonstrates Davis's use of what he called "color-space." In the late 1920s, the artist had developed the idea that the juxtaposition of strong colors could create spatial relationships within a painting, without the use of traditional perspective. He articulated his theories on the use of color in the 1940s, saying, "I think of it as another element like line and space… as an interval of space.… People use to think of color and form as two things. I think of them as the same thing." For Davis, color generated space. In "Medium Still Life," maroon and orange shapes seem to advance and interact while the cool, blue background recedes. Relationships are created between repeated shapes with different colors and repeated colors in different forms. Davis might work for years to get the arrangement and color sequences on a particular canvas precisely right. These colors are not obviously referential, that is, they do not directly imitate the perceived color of a real-world object. As Davis admitted in describing another painting, "casual observation of the scene from which they were taken would not reveal the elements from which the picture was made. These harmonies only became apparent after careful study and contemplation." Such deliberation characterized his painting process. Beginning with preliminary sketches, often producing full-size studies in black-and-white and color, along with numerous studies of specific sections of painting, Davis adjusted and responded to the results of his sketches. He then produced a final charcoal underdrawing on the canvas followed by a thin color underpainting before finally applying the strongly tinted opaque paint that covers the surface. Nothing in his arrangement was arbitrary or accidental. For his subjects, Davis often looked back to paintings from decades earlier. "Medium Still Life" includes a grouping of shapes that first appeared in a 1927 still-life called "Matches" (Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia). In this later work, Davis simplified the forms and revised the color palette in favor of greater intensity and bolder contrasts. This reworking demonstrates the emphasis Davis placed upon process and refinement. "I can work from Nature, from old studies and paintings of my own, from photographs and from other works of art," Davis said. "In each case the process consists of a transposition of the spirit of the forms of the subject into a coherent objective color-space." Cody Hartley
Upper right: Stuart Davis; Reverse: MEDIUM STILL LIFE STUART DAVIS
The artist; Downtown Gallery, New York; Mr. and Mrs. Donald Saidenburg, New York; Downtown Gallery, New York; to William H. Lane Foundation, 1961; to MFA, 1990, gift of the William H. Lane Foundation.
Gift of the William H. Lane Foundation
@ The Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY