Stuart Davis 1892-1964
- Stuart Davis
- The Tug Boat (Gloucester, Mass.)
- signed Stuart Davis and dated 1922 on the reverse
- oil on panel
Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York
Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1980
In the summer of 1915, twenty-two year old Stuart Davis made his first trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts. In his 1945 Autobiography, he fondly recalls: "I went to Gloucester, Mass. on the enthusiastic recommendation of John Sloan. That was the place I had been looking for. It had the brilliant light of Provincetown, but with the important additions of topographical severity and the Gloucester schooner .... I went to Gloucester every year, with few exceptions, until 1934, and often stayed until late fall. I wandered over the rocks, moors, and docks with a sketching easel, large canvases, and a pack on my back, looking for things to paint" (reprinted in Diane Kelder, Stuart Davis, 1971, p. 25).
The busy Gloucester docks and large numbers of boats at Smith's Cove appealed to Davis' vision of his surroundings as complex arrangements of lines and shapes—a framework within which to build and explore his continually developing artistic theories. In the summer of 1922, Davis rented a studio alongside the southeast harbor on Eastern Point Road. That year he painted The Tug Boat, a boldly-colored picture layered with the superimposed imagery of a seaport--a tug boat, a sail boat, buildings, signage. Though Davis reduced the elements of the harbor to abstracted forms, he emphatically applied clear references to the city of Gloucester. The identifiable towers that loom over the town as well as the "Halibut" sign give the collage-like composition specificity as a working harbor. Long after Davis stopped visiting Gloucester, he continued to build upon the themes he had developed there. The clean-edged shapes, floating words, and spotted and striped planes of color that appeared in his Gloucester imagery would reemerge once again, newly configured, in Davis' striking canvases of the 1940s and 1950s.
In those later years, Davis often reevaluated his earlier work. In the 1950s, he revisited paintings produced decades before, and made alterations, constantly refining his vision. In Stuart Davis: A Catalogue Raisonné Ani Boyajian and Mark Rutkoski write: "In 1951 and 1953, Davis reworked and added new elements to this [The Tug Boat] composition directly on the surface of this original 1922 panel. Davis documented his 1951 and 1953 reworking of this painting in his calendar entries ... adding new elements to the composition, including the 'Yellow Orange background' which the artist had changed 'based on theory of Sequence of Pairs' from 'the Cream color accepted a good few years ago'" (vol. III, 2007, p. 120).