Expulsion from the Garden of Eden
Arthur B. Davies straddled the boundaries between the 19th-century romantic tradition and early twentieth-century modernism in the United States. A masterful painter, lithographer and etcher, his art rejected both the realism of Bellows, Hopper, Sloan and others and early experiments in abstraction as seen in the graphic art of John Marin and Max Weber. Beginning around 1900, Davies focused his imagery almost entirely on a personal world of imaginary creatures, allegorical nudes, and dream-like landscapes.
Davies was one of the first American artists whose works Duncan Phillips collected. The subject of one of Phillips’s earliest essays on American art, Davies continued to be the topic of lectures and writing throughout the 1920s, including Arthur B. Davies: Essays on the Man and His Art of 1924. At that time, Phillips believed that Davies was “one of the most distinguished artists now living.” Because of his quiet, gentlemanly manner and wide-ranging knowledge, Davies also became a respected adviser and friend. “This capricious and adventurous artist, the antithesis of the cautious Academician,” Phillips wrote, “follows ever the inspiring gleam wheresoever it may lead…Technically he is a marvelous draughtsman and a sound and brilliant craftsman who cares enough about material to make his effects permanent. But his chief interest for us is the intensity of his imaginative and inventive mind.”