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James E. Davis, Artist, Papers and Artworks

 Collection
Collection Number: A&M.3157

Scope and Contents

Artwork, photography, and papers of James Edward Davis, an artist born in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Davis studied art at Princeton University and had a prolific and varied artistic career, being particularly noted for his experimental abstract films involving color, light, and movement. This collection contains paintings, sketches, mobiles, photographic prints, transparencies, memoirs, notes on Frank Lloyd Wright and John Marin, and other material. There are addenda to this collection, which include memoirs and other writings, correspondence, material regarding Julia Davis and John W. Davis (relatives of James Davis), and other material.

This collection has been organized into twelve series:

Series 1. Photograph Notebooks, boxes 1-9, 1919-1973, undated. This series contains binders (referred to as "notebooks" by Davis) containing photographs attached to the pages with titles and descriptions by Davis. The subjects of the photographs in these binders include artwork by Davis, portraits, figure studies, studies for films, architecture, nature, and landscape. Binders occasionally contain other material including proofs, negatives, clippings, and correspondence.

Series 2. Artwork--Abstract, boxes 10A-20, 1941-1968. This series contains abstract artwork by Davis. Characteristic of the artworks in this series is Davis's obsession with capturing motion; he describes these works as "impulses" or "path of motion", capturing movement with line and color. Media include oil, watercolor, magic marker, and pastel. Some artworks were originally part of scrapbooks.

Series 3. Artwork--Figurative, boxes 21-32; 1926-1972, undated. This series contain figurative artwork by Davis. Most works in this series are figure studies, particularly of dancers and athletes. Media include oil, watercolor, pastel, and magic marker. Some artworks were originally part of scrapbooks.

Series 4. Artwork--Landscape, boxes 33-58, 1924-1966. This series contains landscapes by Davis. Subjects include West Virginia, New England, and the American Southwest. Media include watercolor, oil, and pastel. Some artworks were originally part of scrapbooks.

Series 5. Artwork--Plastics, boxes 59-72, 1928-1968, undated. This series contains artworks made by Davis from various plastic materials. Types of artworks include mobiles (also called "rotating objects"), filters, designs on plastic, and designs for murals. This series also includes patterns for plastic artworks. Some of these artworks were used by Davis to create "light art" photographs and films.

Series 6. Artwork--Still Life, box 73, 1932-1938. This series contains still life watercolor paintings by Davis.

Series 7. Artwork--Asbestos, boxes 74-77, undated. This series includes paintings on materials that contain asbestos. Access to boxes 75-77 is restricted and requires the permission of a curator.

Series 8. Exhibit, box 78, undated. This series contains material from an exhibit of Davis's work, including a portrait photograph of Davis and captions for the artworks that were on display.

Series 9. Photographs, box 79-112, 1919-1974, undated. This series contains photographs taken by James Davis. Material in this series includes black and white prints, color prints, negatives, proofs, and transparencies (16mm and 35mm). Subjects include artworks by Davis, abstract images (including "light art"), portraits, figures in motion, athletics, studies for films, landscapes, and architecture. The majority of material in this series is in its original containers with labeling by Davis. Other material, such as correspondence, is occasionally included.

Series 10. Publications, box 113, 1923-1974. This series contains publications owned by Davis; most of the items in this series are books. Most of the books have Davis's name and address written in them, often with the date of purchase and other information recorded as well. Subjects include art history, biography, Chinese culture, and Princeton University.

Series 11. Anthology Film Archives, box 114, 2007-2013. This series contains material published by Anthology Film Archives (a New York City-based center for the preservation of film, particularly independent, experimental, and avant-garde film), including books and DVDs. There are two books containing essays, interviews, articles, and correspondence regarding Davis's films. There are three DVDs containing films by Davis with informational booklets regarding the films.

Series 12. Typescripts, box 115, 1957-1974. This series contains bound photocopies of typescripts by Davis and others. Subjects of typescripts by Davis include notes for a memoir or autobiography, fellow artists and friends Frank Lloyd Wright and John Marin, and Davis's collaboration with Leo Merker while filming "Pertaining to Chicago", among others. Typescripts by other authors include a transcription of an interview with Davis and the thesis of a Princeton student regarding Davis's work with "Light-painting".

Addenda:

Addendum of 2012/05/29

1845-2012, undated; 3 ft., 9 in. (6 document cases, 5 in.; 1 record carton); Includes journals, photograph albums, manuscripts, family history and genealogy, and other material.

This addendum has been organized into the following series:

Addendum Series 1. Journals; Box 1, folder 1-box 2, folder 8; 1963-1969

Addendum Series 2. Photograph Albums; Box 3-Box 4; 1850-1973

Addendum Series 3. Family History and Genealogy; Box 4, folders 1-2; 1845-1976

Addendum Series 4. Artifact; Box 4, folder 3; 1953

Addendum Series 5. Manuscripts -- James Edward Davis; Box 5, folders 1-8; 1935-1992, undated

Addendum Series 6. Manuscripts -- John Marin; Box 6, folders 1-12; 1940-1990, undated

Addendum Series 7. Manuscripts -- Frank Lloyd Wright; Box 6, folders 13-18; 1947-1990, undated

Addendum Series 8. John W. Davis and Julia Davis; Box 7; 1904-2012, undated

Two photographs have been separated from this addendum and are currently located in box 112, folders 1-2.

Addendum of 1995/01/30

1943-1992; 7 1/2 in. (25 folders); Correspondence from Davis to Virginia M. Wood of Clarksburg, West Virginia.

This addendum has been organized into the following single series:

Addendum Series 9. Virginia M. Wood Correspondence; Box 8, folder 1 through Box 9, folder 11; 1943-1992

See control folder for typescript (3 pages) regarding the content of the letters.

Addendum of 1994/11/28

1951-1995; 1 in. (2 folders); Correspondence from Davis to Carl R. (Bob) Cogar of El Paso, Texas.

Addendum of 1995/03/09

1953-1968; 1/4 in. (1 folder); Christmas cards and correspondence from Davis to Carl R. (Bob) Cogar, including drawings and abstract light art by Davis.

The two addenda described above have been organized into the following series: Addendum Series 10. Carl R. (Bob) Cogar Correspondence; Box 9, folders 12-15; 1944-1998

See control folder for typescript (1 page) regarding Cogar and the content of the letters.

Miscellaneous Addenda

This has been organized into the following single series:

Addendum Series 11. Miscellaneous Addenda; Box 9, folders 16-22; 1991-2003, undated.

Addendum of 2014/09/19

undated; (1 unboxed item); Oil on canvas painting, framed, of sailor playing the accordion by Davis. This addendum has been organized into the following single series:

Addendum of 2014/09/19, Series 12. Painting; unboxed; undated.

Addendum of 2015/01/31

1941-1997; 15 in. (3 document cases, 5 in.); Correspondence, artwork, and photographs of Davis. (A photograph has been separated from this addendum and is currently located in box 112, folder 3.)

This addendum has been organized into the following single series:

Addendum of 2015/01/31, Series 13. Letters, Photographs, and Other Material; Box 10-12; 1914-1997, undated.

Addendum of 2015/08/17

1937-1974; 5 ft. 9 in. (2 record cartons, 2 oversize record cartons, 1 flat storage box, 2 newspaper boxes, 16 unboxed paintings); Artwork, photographs, writings, and correspondence of Davis.

This addendum has been organized into the following single series:

Addendum of 2015/08/17, Series 14. Photographs and Paintings; Box 1-7 and unboxed; 1926-1970s, undated. Access to box 7 is restricted.

Dates

  • 1845-2013

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

Special access restriction applies.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the West Virginia and Regional History Center.

Biographical / Historical

James Edward Davis (1901-1974), more often referred to as Jim Davis, was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia and was a member of the prominent Davis family, which also included politician John W. Davis (Democratic Presidential candidate of 1924) and author Julia Davis. Davis began studying art at Princeton University, where he would later return to teach. He continued his education first at the National Academy of Design in New York City and later in Paris, France. Davis had a prolific and varied artistic career as a painter, photographer, and film-maker. He was particularly fascinated with motion, which led him to evolve a style featuring motion pictures of abstract patterns of colored light. Davis also made documentary films, including ones about his friends and fellow artists, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the painter John Marin. (Notes for the documentaries are in this collection, but not the films themselves.)

See control folder for further information regarding Davis, including a copy of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection newsletter containing an article regarding Davis and this collection.

Extent

59.6 Linear Feet (Summary: 59 ft. 7 in. (57 document cases, 5 in. each); (7 document cases, 2 1/2 in. each); (11 records cartons, 15 in. each); (2 oversize record cartons); (5 large flat storage boxes, 3 1/2 in. each); (small flat storage box, 3 1/2 in); (54 large flat storage boxes, 3 in. each); (7 small flat storage boxes, 3 in. each); (9 large flat storage boxes, 1 1/2 in. each); (1 envelope); (17 unboxed paintings))

Overview

Artwork, photography, and papers of James Edward Davis, an artist born in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Davis studied art at Princeton University and had a prolific and varied artistic career, being particularly noted for his experimental abstract films involving color, light, and movement. This collection contains paintings, sketches, mobiles, photographic prints, transparencies, memoirs, notes on Frank Lloyd Wright and John Marin, and other material. There are addenda to this collection, which include memoirs and other writings, correspondence, material regarding Julia Davis and John W. Davis (relatives of James Davis), and other material. See "Scope and Content Note" and "Historical Note" for further information regarding this collection.

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL: https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/

Separated Materials

Separated to the book collection; forwarded to Curator of Books:

Curry, Larry. John Marin, 1870-1953: a centennial exhibition organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1970.
Title
James E. Davis, Artist, Papers and Artworks, 1845-2013
Author
Staff of the West Virginia & Regional History Center
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

Contact:
1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US
304-293-3536