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Stuart Davis

Born: 1892, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America
Died: 1964, New York, New York, United States of America

Super Table
1925

Oil on canvas
Image: 48 x 34 1/8 in. (122.2 x 86.7 cm)
Frame: 59 5/16 x 45 5/16 in. (150.7 x 115.1 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.37
Signed: Lower right: Stuart Davis
Inscribed: Inscribed on verso (top of stretcher): Table Stuart Davis
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

Embracing such disparate influences as popular advertising illustration and European avant-garde art, Stuart Davis’s Super Table presents a still-life arrangement flattened and distorted to the point of caricature. The wooden table, draped fabric, goblet, and notebook (opened to a gridded drawing of a female nude) are all outlined in simple black or white in the facile manner of cartoon drawing and described in bland colors that bear no relationship to expectation. The smooth, seemingly brushless application of paint imitates the mechanical perfection of commercially printed imagery; Stuart abstracts the essence of such textures as wood and brick in stark outline but eschews any attempt to imitate those effects in his own brushwork. Traditionally, the still life is an intimately scaled work that invites close inspection to appreciate the painter’s illusionistic artistry, but the monumental size of Super Table recalls the intrusiveness and anonymity of posters and billboards. Through such means Davis not only subverts the illusion of three-dimensional space on the flat canvas but deliberately questions the nature of artistic individuality and originality.

Super Table is a distillation of Davis’s four still lifes of 1922 on the theme of the table. It marks the culmination of his experiments in synthetic cubism, whereby everyday objects are abstracted into series of flat, planar forms for decorative effect. Although he would not travel to Europe until 1928, Davis was familiar with the work of the movement’s leaders. Indeed, Super Table seems to have been inspired directly by a work of 1919 by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) published in the American magazine The Arts in 1925. From magazine reproductions, Davis also may have been familiar with the series of large-scale images by Georges Braque (1882–1963) that feature tables. Davis also admired the work of French modernist Fernand Léger (1881–1955), whose influence is clear in the American artist’s clean-edged, pristine forms. Davis’s painting reveals his American background in its monumental size, its insistent linearity, and its evocation of popular graphic imagery.

In his search for compositional purity, Davis was influenced by the ancient theory of design known as the “Golden Section,” which postulated specific proportions and angles between lines and forms that would yield a harmonious whole. This theory was influential among European artists, but gained particular currency in the United States as reinterpreted by American artist Jay Hambidge (1867–1924), whose theory of “dynamic symmetry” emphasized the diagonal and the importance of the rectangle. The playful layering of perspectives in Super Table and resultant defiance of the right angle in the series of skewed rectangles seem less a deliberate application of theory, however, than another example of Davis’s staged confrontation between the high art of painting and modern life.

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Provenance

The artist
Mrs. Stuart Davis, New York, New York, 1964 (wife of artist)
Borgenicht Gallery, Inc., New York
Mr. and Mrs. Rolf Weinberg, Zurich, Switzerland
The Weinberg Collection, Zurich, Switzerland
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1986
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1999

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Exhibition History

1925 Second Exhibition, Gloucester Society of Artists, Inc. (organizer). Venue: Gloucester Society of Artists Gallery, Gloucester, Massachusetts July 18-August 11, 1925.

International Exhibition of Modern Art Arranged by the Société Anonyme for The Brooklyn Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, November–December 1926.

Exhibition-Paintings and Water Colors: Glenn Coleman and Stuart Davis, Valentine (Dudensing) Gallery, New York (organizer). Venue: Valentine (Dudensing) Gallery, New York Apr. 23-May 12, 1928. [exh. cat.]

Painting and Sculpture by Living Americans: Ninth Loan Exhibition, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (organizer). Venue: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 3, 1930-January 20, 1931. [exh. cat.]

Marsden Hartley, Stuart Davis, Cincinnati Modern Art Society, Cincinnati, Ohio (organizer). Venues: Cincinnati Modern Art Society, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 24–November 24, 1941.

Group Exhibition of Paintings by American Artists, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan (organizer). Venue: Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan April 9-May 10, 1942. [exh. cat.]

Stuart Davis, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York (organizer). Venue: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, 1945. [exh. cat.]

Contemporary American Paintings, Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida (organizer). Venue: Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida, January 10-February 2, 1947. [exh. cat.]

Purchase Exhibition, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio (organizer). Venue: Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 29-May 26, 1952. [exh. cat.]

Stuart Davis, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (organizer). Venues: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 30–May 19, 1957; Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa, June 9–June 30, 1957; San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California, August 6–September 8, 1957; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York, September 25–November 17, 1957. [exh. cat.]

Stuart Davis, National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C. (organizer). Venues: National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., May 28–July 5, 1965; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, July 30–August 29, 1965; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York, September 14–October 17, 1965; The Art Galleries, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, October 31–November 28, 1965. [exh. cat.]

Artists of the Western Hemisphere: Precursors of Modernism: 1860-1930, Art Gallery, Center for Inter-American Relations, New York (organizer). Venue: Art Gallery, Center for Inter-American Relations, New York September 19-November 12, 1967. [exh. cat.]

Stuart Davis: Art and Art Theory, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York (organizer). Venues: The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, January 21–March 19, 1978; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 15–May 28, 1978. [exh. cat.]

Zwei Jahrzehnte amerikanische Malerei, 1920-1940, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany (organizer). Venue: Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany, June 10–August 12, 1979. [exh. cat.]

'Rot konstruiert' und 'Super Table': Eine Schweizer Sammlung moderner Kunst, 1909–1939, Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland (organizer). Venue: Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland, March 12–April 13, 1980. [exh. cat.]

A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 21–June 21, 1987. [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 1989.

Stuart Davis, American Painter, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York (organizer). Venues: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, November 23, 1991–February 16, 1992; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California, March 26–June 7, 1992. [exh. cat.]

Permanent collection installation, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 12–August 27, 1997.

Figures and Forms: Selections from the Terra Foundation for the Arts, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 9–July 9, 2000.

L'Amérique et les modernes, 1900–1950 (American Moderns, 1900–1950), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, July 25–October 31, 2000. [exh. cat.]

Selections from the Permanent Collection: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 10–July 1, 2001.

Selections from the Permanent Collection: American Moderns, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, July 14–October 7, 2001.

D'une colonie à une collection: le Musée d'Art Américain Giverny fête ses dix ans (From a Colony to a Collection: Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 30–June 16, 2002.

A Place on the Avenue: Terra Museum of American Art Celebrates 15 Years in Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 16, 2002–February 16, 2003 (on exhibit extended run: November 2, 2002–March 2, 2003).

Debating American Modernism: Stieglitz, Duchamp, and the New York Avant-Garde, American Federation of Arts, New York, New York (organizer). Venues: Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa, May 9–August 1, 2003; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, August 30–November 30, 2003. [exh. cat.]

A Narrative of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, February 13–October 31, 2004.

Expanded Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, April 15, 2005–present.

Picasso and American Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York (organizer). Venues: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York, September 28, 2006–January 28, 2007; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California February 23–May 28, 2007; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 17–September 9, 2007. [exh. cat].

Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, October 2007–October 2013.

Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture and Cuisine, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (organizer); Venue: Art Institute of Chicago, November 12, 2013–January 27, 2014; Art and Appetite: American Art, Culture, and Cuisine, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, February 22–May 18, 2014. [exh. cat.]

Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, July 2014–present.

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Published References

Dreier, Katherine S. International Exhibition of Modern Art. (exh. cat., The Brooklyn Museum). Brooklyn, New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1926. Ill. p. 114 (black & white).

Burrows, Carlyle. "News and Exhibitions of the Week in Art." New York Herald Tribune, Apr. 29, 1928, sec. 7, p. 10, (as Table).

Jewell, Edward Alden. "Davis Tames a Shrew." New York Times, Apr. 29, 1928, sec. 20, p. 18, (as Table).

Cahill, Holger. "In Retrospect, 1910-1945." Art News (October 15, 1945).

Sweeney, James Johnson. Stuart Davis (exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art). New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1945, pp. 16, 17.

Arnason, H. H. Stuart Davis. (exh. cat., Walker Art Center). Minneapolis, Minnesota: Walker Art Center, 1957. Text p. 14; fig. 1, p. 15 (black & white).

Coates, Robert M. "The Art Galleries: Exhibitions at the Whitney." New Yorker (October 19, 1957).

Goossen, E.C. Stuart Davis. New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1959. Text p. 20; pl. 14 (black & white).

Kozloff, Max. "Larry Rivers, Stuart Davis, and Slang Idiom." Artforum 4, no. 3 (Nov. 1965), p. 23, (as Supper Table).

Stuart Davis Memorial Exhibition. (exh. cat., National Collection of Fine Arts). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1965. Text p. 60 (checklist); ill. no. 32, p. 65 (black & white).

Artists of the Western Hemisphere: Precursors of Modernism, 1860-1930 (exh. cat., Center for Inter-American Relations). Introduction by Stanton L. Catlin; entry by Ira E. Rudin. New York: Center for Inter-American Relations, 1967. Text p. 46; ill. p. 42, cat. no. 6.

Ellinghausen, Christine. "Stuart Davis: American Modernist Painter." News World, Jan. 22, 1978. Sec. B, text p. 1; ill. p. 1.

Rose, Barbara. "Stuart Davis: Loud, Hip, and Political." Saturday Review 5, no. 14 (Apr. 15, 1978). Ill. p. 57.

Art in America 66:6 (November-December 1978): 61. Ill. p. 61 (color).

Lane, John R. Stuart Davis: Art and Art Theory. (exh. cat., The Brooklyn Museum). Brooklyn, New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1978. Text pp. 14-15, 100, 204-205 (checklist); ill. cat. no. 12, p. 14 (color and black & white), p. 101 (black & white).

Kelder, Diane. "Stuart Davis: Pragmatist of American Modernism." Art Journal 38-39:1 (Fall 1979): 29-36. Text p. 31; fig. 6, p. 31.

Zwei Jahrzehnte amerikanische Malerei, 1920-1940. (exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, Germany). Dusseldorf, Germany: Kunsthalle, 1979. Cat. no. 105; fig. no. 109.

Bohan, Ruth L. The Société Anonyme's Brooklyn Exhibition: Katherine Dreier and Modernism in America (revision of PhD dissertation, University of Missouri, 1980.) Ann Harbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1982, p. 138. (as Still Life [Supper Table]).

Staber, Margit and Rudolf Koella. "Rot konstruiert" und "Super Table:" Eine Schweizer Sammlung moderner Kunst, 1909-1939. (exh. cat., Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland). Winterthur, Switzerland: Kunstmuseum, 1980. Text p. 96; ill. p. 97 (color).

Lane, John R., ed. Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America, 1927-1944. (exh. cat., Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, 1983. Text p. 63.

Myers, Jane, ed. Stuart Davis: Graphic Work and Related Paintings with A Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints. (exh. cat., Amon Carter Museum). Fort Worth, Texas: Amon Carter Museum, 1986. Text p. 5.

Atkinson, D. Scott et al. A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art. Edited by Terry A. Neff. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1987. Pl. T-176, p. 285 (color).

Super Table, Stuart Davis. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 1989. Ill. (black & white).

Sims, Lowery Stokes. Stuart Davis, American Painter. (exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art). New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991. Text pp. 175-78; cat. 60, p. 177 (color).

Southgate, M. Therese. "The Cover." The Journal of the American Medical Association 267:13 (April 1, 1992): 1709. Text p. 1709; ill. cover (color).

Gerdts, William H. et al. Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865-1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text pp. 112-13; fig. 113, p. 113 (black & white).

Gerdts, William H. et al. Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865-1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text pp. 112-13; fig. 113, p. 113 (black & white).

Hills, Patricia. Stuart Davis. New York: Harry N. Abrams, in association with the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1996. Ill. p. 71, pl. 56 (color).

Wilkin, Karen. Stuart Davis in Gloucester, (exh. cat.). Introduction by Judith McCulloch and Sharon Worley. West Stockbridge, Mass.: Hard Press, 1999, p. 24.

Cartwright, Derrick R. and Paul J. Karlstrom. American Moderns, 1900-1950. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Text p. 36; ill. pp. 26-27 (color detail), pl. 9, p. 36 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. and Paul J. Karlstrom. L'Amérique et les modernes, 1900-1950. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Text p. 36; ill. pp. 26-27 (color detail), pl. 9, p. 36 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. An American Point of View: The Daniel J. Terra Collection. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 174, 194; ill. pp. 14 (color), 175 (color), 194 (black & white).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Un regard transatlantique. La collection d'art américain de Daniel J. Terra. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 174, 194; ill. pp. 14 (color), 175 (color), 194 (black & white).

Balken, Debra Bricker. Debating American Modernism: Stieglitz, Duchamp, and the New York Avant-Garde. (exh. cat., American Federation of Arts). New York: American Federation of Arts in association with Distributed Art Publishers, 2003. Text p. 161 (checklist); ill. pl. 83, p. 190 (color).

Fitzgerald, Michael. Picasso and American Art. (exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York). New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006. Text, pp. 77, 384 (checklist); ill. pl. 35, p. 82 (color).

Barter, Judith A., ed. Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine. (exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois). Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2013. Text, pp. 129, 222; ill. pp. 128 (color), 126 (color) (detail).

Cooper, Harry and Barbara Haskell. Stuart Davis: In Full Swing (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York). Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2016. Text pp. 36–38, 67, 164. Ill. p. 36, fig. 9 (color) and p. 67, pl. 11 (color).

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