Stuart Davis

(American, 1892–1964)

New YorkParis No. 1

, 1931
Oil on canvas, 39 x 51 3/4 in.
Museum purchase, 1955.5

 

Stuart Davis sought to synthesize his memories of Paris with his impressions of modern New York City. Translating the sound of American jazz and the look of advertising into patterns painted with insistent rhythms, in New YorkParis, No. 1, he juxtaposed a modern woman's stocking and shoe-clad leg with the Chrysler Building as a fountain pen, forcing them to lose their traditional subject-oriented status in a collage of forms that float freely in space and time.

This painting is the first of the three New YorkParis paintings Davis did in 1931 after a trip abroad. Davis utilized the Cubist style of Miró and Lèger—he thought of the canvas as a rectangular shape with a two-dimensional surface plane on which to arrange pictographs taken from popular culture. He was more interested in the abstract relationships between the shapes than in the realism of objects.

Like many early twentieth-century modern American artists, Davis came to art through cartooning and commercial art. He also served as a mapmaker for Army Intelligence in World War I. Later, he was employed in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) with Philip Guston, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and Richard Pousette-Dart.