A well-listed poetic landscape painter, Charles Davis initially studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School between 1877 and 1879 with Emil Otto Grundmann (1844-1890), who trained at the academies of Düsseldorf, Paris and Antwerp before settling in Boston as the predecessor of Edmond Charles Tarbell (1862-1938) at this fine arts academy. Leaving for Paris, Davis furthered his studies at the Académie Julian in 1880-1882, studying with William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), Gustave Boulanger (1824-1888) and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911).
Davis then settled in the village of Fleury, near Barbizon, along the banks of the scenic Loiret, started a family and gained recognition as a leading American exponent of the Barbizon style. He gained critical acclaim painting landscapes of the French countryside, particularly of Fontainebleau and Normandy.
Returning to New England in 1891, he moved to Mystic, Connecticut and started an artist’s colony there. Davis’s style turned from tonalism to the brighter palette of impressionism, shifting his focus to richly colored, sun-filled paintings of the New
England countryside with low horizons and big skies filled with dancing clouds. David
Birdsey Walkley (1849-1934) and John Joseph Enneking (1841-1916), among many others, followed Davis to Mystic.
Charles Davis was a member of the Society of American Artists (later to become the National Academy of Design); the Copley Society in Boston; the Lotos Club; the National Arts Club; the American Federation of Arts; Grand Central Art Galleries in New York and as mentioned here above, the founder of the Mystic Art Association.
Charles Davis exhibited widely in the United States and in France, obtaining numerous prizes, including at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts between 1882 and 1911 (obtaining the Lippincott prize in 1901) and between 1914 and 1932 (obtaining a gold medal in 1919); at the National Academy of Design between 1884 and 1895, 1902 and 1934 (obtaining a prize in 1917 and the Saltus medal in 1921); at the Boston Art Club between 1885 and 1909; at the American Art Association in 1886 (obtaining a gold medal), 1896 and 1897 (obtaining a prize each year); at the Paris Salon between 1881 and 1890 (obtaining an honorable mention in 1887); at the Brooklyn Art Association in 1887; at the Paris Expo of 1889 (obtaining a silver medal) and of 1900 (obtaining a bronze medal); at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1890 (obtaining the Palmer prize), in 1898 (obtaining the Palmer prize again) and in 1904 (obtaining a medal); at the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association (established in 1795 and the sponsor of many exhibitions, including the first U.S. exhibition of French Impressionists in 1883) in 1890 (obtaining a medal); at the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1891; at the Columbian Expo in Chicago in 1893 (obtaining a medal); at the Atlanta Expo in 1895 (obtaining a gold medal); at the Pan-American Expo in Buffalo in 1901 (obtaining a silver medal); at the Society of Washington Artists in 1901 (obtaining a prize); at the St. Louis Expo in 1904 (obtaining a silver medal); at the Corcoran Gallery between 1907 and 1932 (obtaining a silver medal in 1919); at the Newport Art Museum’s inaugural exhibition of 1912; and at the Pan-Pacific Expo in 1915 (obtaining a gold medal).
Charles Davis also exhibited at the important 1913 Armory Show in New York, with one entry, an oil entitled Allegro. This show introduced the American public to an array of European and American artists, exposing the public for the first time to post-impressionism, cubism and other then radical styles.
In addition, a memorial exhibition of Davis’s works was held the year of his death in 1934 at the Mystic Art Association and retrospective exhibitions were held in 1982 at Doll & Richards Gallery in Boston and at Macbeth Galleries in New York.
Charles Davis’s works are part of virtually every important museum collection of American art, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Corcoran; Carnegie Institute; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the National Gallery of Art; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; the Art Institute in
Chicago; the Hackley Art Gallery, now the Muskegon Museum of Art in Muskegon, MI; the Minneapolis Institute of Art; the City Art Museum, now the St. Louis Art Museum; the Syracuse Museum of Fine Art; the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, OH; the Bruce Art Museum in Greenwich, CT; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT; the Omaha Art Museum; the Cincinnati Art Museum; the Worcester Art Museum; the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT; and the Lyman-Allen Museum in New London, CT.
(Researched and compiled by Michel G. Delhaise, © Jordan-Delhaise Gallery, Ltd.)