Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Arboretum by Flashbulb

Artist:
Stuart Davis (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1892–1964 New York)
Date:
1942
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
18 x 36 in. (45.7 x 91.4 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, Bequest of Edith Abrahamson Lowenthal, 1991
Accession Number:
1992.24.2
Not on view
This composition embodies the syncopated rhythms of American jazz and the dynamism of modern life. Working with a limited palette of just five colors, plus black and white, the artist produced a tour-de-force of patterns, shapes, color combinations, and spatial ambiguities. Abstracted almost beyond recognition, the image is based on a garden, momentarily illuminated by the yellow-and-red light of a camera flash.
Inscription: Signed (upper left): Stuart Davis
the artist, New York (1942-44; sold on January 20, 1945, for $909, through the Downtown Gallery, New York, to Lowenthal); Edith and Milton Lowenthal, New York (1945–his d. 1987); Edith Lowenthal, New York (1987–d. 1991; her bequest to MMA)

New York. Downtown Gallery. "Opening Exhibition: New Paintings and Sculpture," September 22–October 10, 1942, brochure no. 3 (as "Arboretum by Flash Light").

New York. Downtown Gallery. "Stuart Davis: Selected Paintings," February 2–27, 1943, brochure no. 15.

Art Institute of Chicago. "The Fifty-Fourth Annual Exhibition: American Paintings and Sculpture," October 28–December 12, 1943, no. 65.

Richmond. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "The Fourth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Paintings," March 19–April 16, 1944, no. 37.

Boston. Institute of Modern Art. "Four Modern American Painters: Peter Blume, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Jacob Lawrence," March 2–April 1, 1945, no. 24a (as "Arboretum by Flash-bulb," lent by the Downtown Gallery).

New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Stuart Davis," October 17, 1945–February 3, 1946, unnumbered cat (p. 34; as "Arboretum by Flashbulb," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal, New York).

Baltimore Museum of Art. "Paintings by Stuart Davis," March 1–31, 1946, unnum. checklist (lent by Mr. Milton Lowenthal, New York).

St. Paul. Minnesota State Fair. "Thirty-Sixth Annual Fine Arts Exhibition," August 23–September 1, 1947, no. 187 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal, New York City).

Art Institute of Chicago. "Abstract and Surrealist American Art: Fifty-Eighth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture," November 6, 1947–January 11, 1948, no. 56 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal, New York City).

Santa Barbara Museum of Art. "Thirty Paintings: Stuart Davis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Franklin Watkins," July 28–August 28, 1949, unnumbered cat. (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal, New York City).

San Francisco. M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. "Thirty Paintings: Stuart Davis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Franklin Watkins," September 8–October 9, 1949, unnumbered cat.

Portland, Ore. Portland Art Museum. "Thirty Paintings: Stuart Davis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Franklin Watkins," October 15–November 20, 1949, unnumbered cat.

Richmond. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Judge the Jury," February 9–March 18, 1951, unnum. checklist.

Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo. "I Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo," October 20–December 23, 1951, no. 11 (lent by Sr. e Sra. Milton Lowenthal, New York).

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection," October 1–November 2, 1952, no. 16.

Minneapolis. Walker Art Center. "Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection," November 28, 1952–January 17, 1953, no. 16.

Stockholm. Liljevalchs Konsthall. "12 American Painters and Sculptors," February 28–March 1953, no. 7 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal, New York).

Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. "12 American Painters and Sculptors," April–June 1953, no. 7.

Kunsthaus Zürich. "12 American Painters and Sculptors," July 25–August 30, 1953, no. 7.

Dusseldorf. Kunstsammlungen der Stadt. "12 American Painters and Sculptors," September 20–October 25, 1953, no. 7.

Helsinki. Taidehalli Konsthallen. "12 American Painters and Sculptors," January 8–24, 1954, no. 7.

Oslo. Kunstnernes Hus. "12 American Painters and Sculptors," February 18–March 7, 1954, no. 7.

New York. Art Gallery, The American Academy of Arts and Letters and The National Institute of Arts and Letters. "Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members," May 24–June 24, 1956, no. 1 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal).

Waltham, Mass. Student Center, Brandeis University. "Festival of the Creative Arts, Art on the Campus: An Exhibition," June 1–20, 1957, no. 27 (as "Arboretum by Flash Bulb," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal, New York City).

New York. American Federation of Arts Gallery. "Selections from the Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection," May 25–June 5, 1964, no catalogue.

Washington, D. C. National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution. "Stuart Davis Memorial Exhibition 1894–1964," May 28–July 5, 1965, no. 77 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal).

Art Institute of Chicago. "Stuart Davis Memorial Exhibition 1894–1964," July 30–August 29, 1965, no. 77.

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Stuart Davis Memorial Exhibition 1894–1964," September 14–October 17, 1965, no. 77.

Art Galleries, University of California at Los Angeles. "Stuart Davis Memorial Exhibition 1894–1964," October 31–November 28, 1965, no. 77.

Brooklyn Museum. "Stuart Davis: Art and Art Theory," January 21–March 19, 1978, no. 55 (lent by Edith and Milton Lowenthal).

Cambridge, Mass. Fogg Art Museum. "Stuart Davis: Art and Art Theory," April 15–May 28, 1978, no. 55.

Brooklyn Museum. "Modernist Art from the Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection," March 21–May 10, 1981, no. 12.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Stuart Davis: American Painter," November 23, 1991–February 16, 1992, no. 131 (lent by the Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, New York).

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "Stuart Davis: American Painter," March 26–June 7, 1992, no. 131.

Koriyama, Japan. Koriyama City Museum of Art. "Stuart Davis: Retrospective 1995," July 8–August 6, 1995, no. 60.

Shiga, Japan. The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga. "Stuart Davis: Retrospective 1995," August 12–October 1, 1995, no. 60.

Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. "Stuart Davis: Retrospective 1995," October 10–November 26, 1995, no. 60.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "American Art: The Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection. Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection," October 10, 1996–January 12, 1997, unnumbered cat. (p. 9; published in MMA Bulletin 54, summer 1996).

Venice. Peggy Guggenheim Collection. "Stuart Davis," June 7–October 5, 1997, no. 37.

Washington, D. C. National Museum of American Art. "Stuart Davis," May 22–September 7, 1998.

New York. Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, LLC. "Stuart Davis: Major Late Paintings," April 9–May 11, 2002, no. 1.

Stuart Davis. "Davis and 'Abstraction'." New York Times (September 27, 1942), sec. 8, p. 5, notes discomfort with descriptions of this work as "abstract"; describes this work as "drawn from nature in a garden which I loved" integrated with "many other observations, remote in time and place, with the general content, which was based on the initial interest felt in the color-space of the garden".

Edward Alden Jewell. "Downtown Holds Fall Art Display." New York Times (September 22, 1942), p. 24, labels this work as strongly abstract despite its "concrete" title.

Clement Greenberg. "Stuart Davis: Selected Paintings at the Downtown Gallery." Nation 156 (February 20, 1943), p. 284, calls it "Arboretum by Flash Bulb"; notes that this painting is a successful example of the artist's new experiments with compact shapes and a new color palette.

Robert M. Coates. "The Art Galleries: Davis, Hartley, and the River Seine." New Yorker 18 (February 13, 1943), p. 58, calls it "Arboretum by Flash-Bulb" and notes that this represents one extreme of the artist's style at its most abstract.

Walter Read Hovey. "The 1944 Carnegie from the Pittsburgh Point of View." Art News 43 (October 15-31, 1944), pp. 11-12, ill., notes that this work won Honorable Mention and $200 at the 1944 Carnegie International Exhibition; praises its hynoptic abstraction, noting the work "becomes great as it separates itself from the imagery communicated by words. In its purest manifestation it is illustration of a concept not of a sentence.".

James Johnson Sweeney. Stuart Davis. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1945, pp. 33, 36, ill. p. 34.

Holger Cahill. "Stuart Davis in Retrospect: 1945-1910." Art News 44 (October 15–31, 1945), p. 32, ill. p. 24, notes the playfulness and humor of this work and others from the same period.

Stuart Davis. Stuart Davis. New York, 1945, ill. n.p., locates it in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lowenthal.

Edward Alden Jewell. "Mr. Davis, Ralph Earl and Others: The Past and the Present in One-Man Shows at Museums." New York Times (October 21, 1945), p. 7.

John Lucas. "The Fine Art Jive of Stuart Davis." Arts 31 (September 1957), p. 36, calls it "Arboretum by Flashlight"; notes that this work represents the end of the artist's experiments with quasi-Cubist imagery into pure "non-objective" abstraction.

E. C. Goossen. Stuart Davis. New York, 1959, p. 28, pl. 49.

Rudi Blesh. Stuart Davis. New York, 1960, pp. 58-60, fig. 34.

H. H. Arnason in Stuart Davis Memorial Exhibition. Exh. cat., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C., 1965, pp. 32, 69, no. 77.

Christine Ellinghausen. "Stuart Davis: American Modernist Painter." News World 3 (January 22, 1978), ill. p. 1B.

John R. Lane. Stuart Davis: Art and Art Theory. Exh. cat., The Brooklyn Museum. New York, 1978, pp. 49, 51, 57, 59-61, 209, no. 55, ill. pp. 56 (color), 133.

Robert Hughes. "Stuart Davis: The City Boy's Eye." Time 111 (March 20, 1978), p. 65, ill., notes that this work reflects "the heroism of modern life" and the artist's love of the city.

John R. Lane in The Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection. Exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum. New York, 1981, pp. 4, 16, no. 12, ill. (color).

Brian O'Doherty. American Masters: The Voice and the Myth in Modern Art. rev. ed. (first edition, 1974). New York, 1982, p. 75.

Carol Troyen in The Lane Collection: 20th-Century Paintings in the American Tradition. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 1983, p. 52.

Karen Wilkin. Stuart Davis. New York, N. Y., 1987, pp. 163, 165–66, 170, 174, colorpl. 185.

Lowery Stokes Sims in Lowery Stokes Sims. Stuart Davis: American Painter. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1991, pp. 249, 257, 260, 262, no. 131, ill. (color).

John R. Lane in Lowery Stokes Sims. Stuart Davis: American Painter. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1991, p. 73.

Bonnie L. Grad. "Stuart Davis and Contemporary Culture." Artibus et Historiae 12, no. 24 (1991), p. 187, calls it "Arboretum by Flashlight" and notes how this and other paintings created in the early and mid-1940s are denser and more complex than their predecessors.

Diane Kelder. "Stuart Davis, American Painter." Journal of Art 4 (November 1991), p. 60.

Diane Kelder in Lowery Stokes Sims. Stuart Davis: American Painter. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1991, p. 28.

Holland Cotter. "Swing Cubism." Art in America 80 (September 1992), p. 104, notes how this work demonstrates the increasing complexity of the artist's compositions and postulates that this may have influenced major Abstract Expressionist artists like Willem de Kooning.

William Wilson. Stuart Davis's Abstract Argot. San Francisco, 1993, p. XIV, colorpl. 20.

Akio Seki in Stuart Davis: Retrospective 1995. Exh. cat., Koriyama City Museum of Art. Osaka, Japan, 1995, p. 102, no. 60, ill. (color).

Lisa Mintz Messinger. "American Art: The Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 54 (Summer 1996), pp. 6, 8-9, 43 (ill., color and b/w).

Philippe de Montebello. "Director's Note." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 54 (Summer 1996), p. 3.

Patricia Hills. Stuart Davis. New York, 1996, pp. 123, 131, 134-36, colorpl. 106.

Karen Wilkin in Stuart Davis. Exh. cat., Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Milan, 1997, p. 24.

Diane Kelder in Stuart Davis. Ed. Philip Rylands. Exh. cat., Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Milan, 1997, p. 94, 146, no. 37, ill. p. 147 (color).

Roberta Smith. "Riffs on America in an Abstract Direction." New York Times (May 22, 1998), p. B33, notes that this work was an important breakthrough for the artist achieving "a new optical wholeness" with an even and shallow composition of only select colors.

Holland Cotter. "Stuart Davis 'Major Later Paintings'." New York Times (April 19, 2002), p. E36, calls it "Arboretum by Flashlight" and notes the work's "urban-rococo middle style", comparing it to Matisse.

Ani Boyajian and Mark Rutkoski in Stuart Davis: Major Late Paintings. Exh. cat., Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, LLC. New York, 2002, pp. 48-49, no. 1, colorpl. 1.

Ani Boyajian and Mark Rutkoski, ed. Stuart Davis: A Catalogue Raisonné. Vol. 3, Catalogue Entries 1324–1749. New Haven, 2007, pp. 335-36, no. 1644, ill. (color).

Karen Wilkin in Stuart Davis: A Catalogue Raisonné. Ed. Ani Boyajian and Mark Rutkoski. Vol. 1, Essays and References. New Haven, 2007, pp. 90-91, 93-94.

William C. Agee in Stuart Davis: A Catalogue Raisonné. Ed. Ani Boyajian and Mark Rutkoski. Vol. 1, Essays and References. New Haven, Conn., 2007, p. 101.



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