An Artistic Story of New York City in 1932- New York Mural, Davis, Stuart

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November 17, 2012
Essay II, Word Count: 2268

An Artistic Story of New York in 1932
The purpose of this essay is to discuss the ways Stuart Davis uses the elements of art and principals of design in his painting, New York Mural, 1932. In the beginning of this essay, there is a description of Davis’ biological information and what was happening in New York during the years preceding the painting. It will discuss three elements of art to include: line, shape and color. The principals of design that will be discussed are unity, balance, and variety. It will close with my personal reflection and experience that was gained from the analysis and research of the painting. Davis was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1892 to parents that were artists. His father was a newspaper art director and his mother was a sculptor. His family moved to East Orange, New Jersey when he was nine years old. He attended school in New Jersey and left high school in 1909 before graduating to attend Henri’s School of Art in New York City. He became acquainted and formed friendships with mentors, John Sloan and George Luks. These men were all part of “The Eight”. These men were all part of the Realist Art Movement and focused on poverty and the realities of urban life for real people. He began exhibiting his art in 1910 and had his first exhibit in New York City. In 1912, he was employed by a left leaning journal that under the direction of Sloan. While he was there, participating in the groundbreaking Armory Show. His work still was in the realist mode until 1916 when he went on his own to become more of an abstract artist. He was drafted and stayed in United States as a cartographer creating maps for the US Army Intelligence Department. Fortunately, that was short-lived and he began using a Cubist style on his work. He made a series with this Cubist style of works based on a tobacco series. He began an eggbeater series while having Edith Halpert of New York’s Downtown Gallery of Art. This series began his journey away from European influenced Cubism to his own development of his own abstractive modernist style without human presence in his works. He went to Paris in 1928 and upon returning in 1929, he became fascinated and intrigued with the industrialism and post war architecture in New York City. His words were quoted by Karen Wilkin, “On my arrival I New York I was appalled and depressed by its gigantism. Everything in Paris was human size, here everything was inhuman. It was difficult to think either of art or oneself as having any significance whatever in the face of this frenetic commercial engine.” (Wilkin, 127). At this time, the Great Depression he created relatively few works, but he constantly changed scale, medium and method, making easel paintings, ink drawings, murals and lithographs (Wilkin, 127). His art reflected social issues and his works were pictures that tell a larger story. New York Mural was his most ambitious treatment of the city in which he touched upon the issues of prohibition, government corruption and the affairs of Al Smith (Weber, 10). His journals and historical data during these few years in the New York City political scene are confirmation of the journalistic story he told through New York Mural. It was an outrage that many foreign artists were commissioned to do work in the United States. The Museum of Modern Art in New York organized an exhibit of contemporary murals. This show is why Davis created the New York Mural. It stirred much controversy because of the story it told about New York’s economic, social and political climate. Davis wrote in his personal papers, now in collection at Harvard University: Modern art is a reflection of the advanced modern technology. Modern Art in turn has changed to industrial design (Weber, 10). In 1932, Davis painted the piece that is the topic of this essay, New York Mural. He used oil which did not dry quickly and gave him the ability to change and modify colors...
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