A lifelong Washingtonian, Gene Davis (1920-1985) was a self-taught artist. Although he began his career as a sports and political journalist, Davis ultimately abandoned the profession for painting. From the beginning, his eye was attuned to color: he admired the palettes of the French Nabi artists like Pierre Bonnard and avant-gardes like Paul Klee. These interests led him to become a key member of the Washington Color School, which included among its ranks the likes of Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, as well as Tom Downing, who is also featured in this exhibition. Davis began painting vertical stripe compositions like Royal Canoe in the early 1950s. Such works often involved experimental working methods, such as staining, which entailed applying thinned pigment to the canvas to eliminate any evidence of brushwork or handling. The artist’s work appears in The Phillips Collection, the Tate Modern, the Museum of Modern Art, and the National Gallery of Art.
Gene Davis, Series I 1969, Silkscreen image on canvas, mounted on paper board (6 images), 30 x 20 in. (76.2 x 50.8 cm) vertical 24 x 30 in. (61.0 x 76.2 cm) horizontal, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis; courtesy of the Charles Cowles Gallery, Inc., New York, New York