American Modernism at Mid-Century: The Work of Morris Davidson

April 28 – September 17, 2017

Morris Davidson American (1899-1979) Untitled (209), 1948 Oil on canvas; 32-1/2″ x 40-1/2″ Rosenfeld/Davidson Family Collection

Morris Davidson’s career as a painter spanned the decades in which American artists experimented with a wide variety of artistic expression, from social realism to abstraction. Davidson followed these trends in his own work as he studied art in Baltimore, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with painters in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and eventually in Paris. In an oral history conducted with Davidson by the Archives of American Art in 1971, the artist described the decisive impact that cubism and other modernist movements had on his thinking and painting. Along with many other mid-century artists, Davidson, in the course of his career, moved away from the depiction of identifiable landscapes or cityscapes and toward a greater degree of abstraction. The mature works of this post-war period will be highlighted in the exhibition and catalogue. Thanks to a loan from a private collection that spans the entirety of Davidson’s career, this exhibition presents a body of evidence that has allowed the student curators to be the first to reconstruct Davidson’s development as a painter, demonstrating that his move from a social-realist idiom in his early work to abstraction by mid-century was informed by his contact with some of the foremost painters of his day.

American Modernism at Mid-Century: The Work of Morris Davidson is the fourth in a series of annual partnerships between the Fine Arts Gallery and the Department of History of Art. The exhibition is curated by Aiden Layer ’19, Nancy Lin ’18, Ryan Logie ’17, Cecilia March ’18, Kittredge Shamamian ’17, Elliot Taillon ’17, and Nina Vaswani ’18, who were students in the Exhibiting Historical Art class, taught this year by Professor Kevin Murphy, Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities and chair of the Department of History of Art.

Support has been provided by the vice provost for academic and strategic affairs, the College of Arts and Science, the Department of History of Art, the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities, the Ewers Gift for Fine Art, and the Rosenfeld-Davidson Family Archive.

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