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GERALD VIVIAN DAVIS (American 1899-1987)
The Kimono -1925
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower right “Gerald Davis -25” and signed and titled in artist's hand on verso
63 inches x 38 inches, contained in an attractive vintage gilt frame with title plaque
$2,000 - 3,000
€ 1,760 - 2,640
Price Realized: $3,750.00
Gerald Vivian Davis was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899. Some sources state he first began his art studies while in the Diplomatic Corps in Berne, Switzerland, and at the same time he became a Swiss national tennis champion. What is known for certain through exhibition records, is that after WWI Davis went to Paris to study painting at the Academie Julian, L'ecole des Beaux-Arts and Le Grande Chaumiere. While in Paris, he exhibited at the Salon d'Automne and Societe Nationale des Beaux Artes. After returning to the United States, Davis taught briefly at the University of Illinois, Champaign (1925-1928) where he became friends with Thomas Hart Benton.
Around 1928, Davis returned to the continent with his Danish wife Esther, where he would go on to exhibit at various venues throughout Europe including many one-man shows. Prior to the outbreak of WWII, Davis returned to the United States where he earned a Fellowship at the Tiffany Foundation in Oyster Bay, Long Island. After the war he taught for four years at the University of Kansas, Lawrence (1947-1951), and then returned to Summit, New Jersey where he continued painting until his death in 1987.
An accomplished painter, Davis was clearly influenced by Impressionism as well as the Ashcan school, as evident in the offered painting. And while Davis’ paintings have been selected for major public, private and museum collections around the world, his works are just now once again becoming discovered, reentering the marketplace after having been in storage since his death in 1987.
KIMONOS AS INSPIRATION
In the decade prior to World War I, the construction of women's garments began to change dramatically. As early as 1908, revolutionary French couturiers, such as Marie Callot Gerber (1870-1927) and Paul Poiret (1879-1944), took inspiration from the drapery-like quality of kimonos. Loosely cut sleeves and crossed bodices were incorporated into evening dresses, while opera coats swathed the body like batwinged cocoons.
One of the twentieth century's greatest couturiers, Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1975) was inspired by the kimono, with its reliance on uncut lengths of fabric, and raised dressmaking to an art form. From the onset of World War I to the late 1920s, she abandoned the traditional practice of tailoring body-fitted fashions from numerous, complex pattern pieces, and minimized the cutting of fabric. A "minimalist" with strict aesthetic principles who rarely employed patterned fabrics or embroidery, Vionnet relied instead on surface ornamentation through manipulation of the fabric itself. For example, the wavy parallel folds of a pin-tucked crepe dress evoked the abstracted image of a raked Zen rock garden, itself a metaphor for the waves of the sea.
Although the influence of the kimono on the construction of garments was extremely important in the 1910s and 1920s, surface ornamentation remained a vital force. During the Art Moderne, or Art Deco, era, French textiles in the Japanese style developed a more sophisticated use of both abstract motifs and recognizable images. However, by the 1930’s the influence of "exotic" cultures on fashion began to diminish giving way to modern versions of historical Western dress.
From Impressionists, Post Impressionists to the Ashcan school, few painters of any prominence from these periods do not have in their oeuvre at least one if not many works exhibiting the modeling of a kimono.
Japanese cultures impact on Western art forms of all types (Japonsim) exploded in the mid-19th century. During the Kaei era (1848–1854), after more than 200 years of seclusion, foreign merchant ships of various nationalities again began to visit Japan. Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan ended a long period of national isolation and became open to imports from the West. In turn, many Japanese decorative arts such as prints, ceramics, cloisonné enamels and textiles came to Europe and America and soon gained great popularity.
Japonism first started with a craze for collecting Japanese art, particularly ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) of which some of the first samples were to be seen in Paris. In 1860 and 1861, black-and-white reproductions of ukiyo-e were published in books about Japan. In 1862, La Porte Chinoise, a shop selling various Japanese goods including prints, opened in the rue de Rivoli, one of the most fashionable shopping streets in Paris. French painters of the time such as James Tissot, Monet, Manet, Latrec, Van Gogh, Renior and Degas were clearly inspired by Japanese art and culture, especially the kimono.
In England the study and purchase of Japanese art by institutions had begun as early as 1852, but it is Whistler who is considered the person who introduced England to Japanese art. Whistler acquired a good collection of Japanese art during his years in Paris before coming to England in 1859. Decorative art, rather than fine art, when influenced by the principles of the arts of Japan is referred to in England as Anglo-Japanese style, distinct from the Japonism of France.
While the influence of Japanese fashion as depicted in Western painting reached its height in the 19th century, it clearly continued into the early 20th century experiencing a revival of sorts during the Art Deco period as depicted in the offered lot.