Stuart Davis was acquainted from an early age with John Sloan and Robert Henri, leaders of the so-called Ashcan School, a group of artists committed to depicting all aspects of modern urban life. Davis studied at Henri’s New York school, but he eventually came to disagree with his teacher’s belief in the preeminence of content over composition and form; instead, he created a style in which he generalized and abstracted his shapes and the spaces between them.
Nonetheless, Davis’s art is never totally abstract. Twentieth-century America is reflected in the shapes and colors he chose and in the sheer vitality of his compositions. His style—big, bright, bold, and clear—is completely appropriate to his subject matter. Forms have been reduced to large colored planes; words or numbers are simplified and offered as elements of design. In Ready-to-Wear, the bright, unmixed colors recall those of the French artist Fernand Léger. The way in which they intersect and interrupt one another, however, conveys a mood that is distinctly American: energetic, jazzy, mass produced—all qualities summed up in the title. The planes, reminiscent of overlapping pasted-down paper cutouts, even suggest the garment patterns from which ready-to-wear clothes are assembled.
Purchased with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Sigmund W. Kunstadter; Goodman Endowment
Extended information about this artwork
Katharine Kuh, “The Artist’s Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists” (Harper & Row, 1962), 56–7 (ill.).
David Sylvester, ed. “Modern Art: From Fauvism to Abstract Expressionism” (Franklin Watts, 1965) p. 44 (ill.).
Michael Benedikt, “New York Letter: Stuart Davis, 1894–1964,” Art International 9, 8 (November 20, 1965) p. 44.
The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth–Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), 108 (ill.).
Judith A. Barter et al., American Modernism at the Art Institute of CHicago, From World War I to 1955, (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 186.
Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago: Highlights of the Collection, (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 141.
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, 1955 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting, Oct. 13–Dec. 19, 1955, cat. 73.
Youngstown, Ohio, Butler Institute of American Art, Twenty–First Annual Midyear Show, July 1–Sept. 6, 1956, cat. 42.
New York City, Downtown Gallery, Stuart Davis: Exhibition of Recent Paintings, 1954–1956, Nov. 6–Dec. 1, 1956, cat. 7.
Lake Forest, Ill., Durand Art Institute, Lake Forest College, A Century of American Painting: Masterpieces Loaned by The Art Institute of Chicago, June 10–16, 1957, cat. 40.
Washington, DC, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institute, Stuart Davis Memorial Exhibition, May 25–July 5, 1965, cat. 103; Art Institute of Chicago, July 30–Aug. 29, 1965; New York City, Whitney Museum of American Art, Sept. 14–Oct. 17, 1965; Art Galleries, Universtiy of California–Los Angeles, Oct. 31–Nov. 28, 1965.
Art Institute of Chicago, The Modern Series: Shatter Rupture Break, Feb. 15–May 3, 2015, no cat.
New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Stuart Davis, American Painter, Nov. 23, 1991–Feb. 16, 1992, cat. 154; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Mar. 26–June 7, 1992.
Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Stuart Davis, June 7–Oct. 5, 1997, cat. 51; Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Oct. 22, 1997–Jan. 12, 1998, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Feb. 1–Apr19, 1998, Washington, DC, National Museum of American Art, May 22–Sept. 7, 1998 (Washington, DC only).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, June 10–Sept. 25, 2016; Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, Nov. 20, 2016–Mar. 5, 2017; de Young, San Francisco Fine Arts Museums, Apr. 8–Aug. 6, 2017; Bentonville, Arkansas, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Sept. 16, 2017–Jan. 8, 2018 (New York and Washington DC only) cat. 63.
Edith Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York City, 1955; sold to Art Institute of Chicago, 1956.
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