Davis, Vestie – American Artist

Vestie Davis (American, 1903 to 1978)

Vestie Davis was born in Baltimore, moved to New York City in 1928, and never left. He worked many jobs, among them train conductor, circus barker and ticket taker, undertaker, church organist, and subway newsstand operator. Davis did not begin painting regularly until he was in his forties and never trained in art. As described in the introduction to the one-man exhibition Vestie Davisa€™s New York at the American Folk Art Museum (October 20, 2009a€”November 7, 2010): “The New York of Vestie Davis is a bright, sparkling place with impressive and diverse landmark buildings, bridges, parks, and beaches. It is a hub of civic, financial, and recreational activity chronicled in meticulously detailed pictures from the 1950s through the 1970s. Davis predicted that some of his favorite sites would not survive the evolving needs of the city, and he faithfully rendered them with this in mind.” Davis drew, but worked predominantly in oil on canvas. He studied each location he chose to paint, and, using photographs for reference, spent hours drawing on canvas and then painting flattened forms of unmediated color in a shallow picture plane. He said, “You’ve got to make a song of a painting, you’ve got to give it a sweet melody,” and, indeed, Davis’s New York is a merry place. In 1950, Davis participated in the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. Morris Weisenthal, owner of the Morris Gallery, saw the paintings and decided to represent Davis. Davis’s works are in many important collections, including those of the American Folk Art Museum, New York; the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and the Milwaukee Art Museum. One of his Coney Island paintings was used as the cover for the September 6, 1958, issue of The New Yorker magazine.

Information Courtesy of Rago Arts, December, 2018.

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