Arthur Bowen Davies

Arthur Bowen Davies bigraphy, stories - American artist

Arthur Bowen Davies : biography

September 26, 1863 – October 24, 1928

Arthur Bowen Davies (September 26, 1863 – October 24, 1928) was an avant-garde American artist and influential advocate of modern art in the United States circa 1910-1928.

Public collections

Arthur B. Davies, Elysian Fields, undated, oil on canvas, [[The Phillips Collection (Washington, D. C.)]] (In alphabetical order by state, then by city, then by museum name)

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, California)
  • Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery (Scripps College, Claremont, California)
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (San Francisco, California)
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)
  • The Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.)
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.)
  • High Museum of Art (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Honolulu Museum of Art (Honolulu, Hawaii)
  • Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Block Museum of Art (Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois)
  • Cedarhurst Center for the Arts (Mt. Vernon, Illinois)
  • Midwest Museum of American Art (Elkhart, Indiana)
  • Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University (Wichita, Kansas)
  • Farnsworth Art Museum (Rockland, Maine)
  • Addison Gallery of American Art (Andover, Massachusetts)
  • Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
  • Worcester Art Museum (Worcester, Massachusetts)
  • Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan
  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • Sheldon Museum of Art (Lincoln, Nebraska)
  • Montclair Art Museum (Montclair, New Jersey)
  • Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, New York)
  • Heckscher Museum of Art (Huntington, New York)
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City, New York)
  • Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Butler Institute of American Art (Youngstown, Ohio)
  • Museum of Art (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Westmoreland Museum of American Art (Greensburg, Pennsylvania)
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art (Pennsylvania)
  • Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
  • Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas, Texas)
  • Brigham Young University Museum of Art (Provo, Utah)
  • , Randolph College, formerly Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (Lynchburg, Virginia)


Within a year of his marriage, Davies’ paintings began to sell, slowly but steadily.Wright, p. 26. In turn-of-the-century America, he found a market for his gentle, expertly painted evocations of a fantasy world. Regular trips to Europe, where he immersed himself in Dutch art and came to love the work of Corot and Millet, helped him to hone his color sense and refine his brushwork. By the time he was in his forties, Davies had definitively proved his in-laws wrong and, represented by a prestigious Manhattan art dealer, William Macbeth, was making a comfortable living. His reputation at the time, and still today (to the extent that he is known at all), rests on his ethereal figure paintings, the most famous of which is Unicorns: Legend, Sea Calm (1906) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the 1920s, his works commanded very high prices and he was recognized as one of the most respected and financially successful American painters. He was prolific, consistent, and highly skilled. Art history texts routinely cited him as one of America’s greatest artists. Important collectors like Duncan Phillips were eager to buy his latest drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings.

Davies was also the principal organizer of the legendary 1913 Armory Show and a member of The Eight, a group of painters who in 1908 mounted a protest against the restrictive exhibition practices of the powerful, conservative National Academy of Design. Five members of the Eight—Robert Henri (1865–1929), George Luks (1867–1933), William Glackens, (1870–1938), John Sloan, (1871–1951), and Everett Shinn (1876–1953)—were Ashcan realists, while Davies, Maurice Prendergast (1859–1924), and Ernest Lawson (1873–1939) painted in a different, less realistic style. His friend Alfred Stieglitz, patron to many modern artists, regarded Davies as more broadly knowledgeable about contemporary art than anyone he knew.Sue Davidson Lowe, Stieglitz: A Memoir/Biography (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983), p. 163. Davies also served as an advisor to many wealthy New Yorkers who wanted guidance about making purchases for their art collections. Two of those collectors were Lizzie P. Bliss and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, two of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art, whose Davies-guided collections eventually became a core part of that museum.Wright, pp. 86-87. Wright notes: "Miss Bliss was more than a patron; she was a confidante, and one of the few people with whom he could be himself. Despite the disapproval of her family, who felt that such conduct was indiscreet in a spinster past forty, she would visit him in his studio, play the piano [with him], talk about music and listen to his ideas about art."