“In the Stretch”, n.d. | 14”x20” - oil on board
Davey was a lover of horses which became a favorite subject of his especially scenes of polo matches. Here he has captured the movement and thrill of the racetrack experience. The horse's legs are lost within a cloud of dirt that is characterized by loose brushwork. Davey taught at the Broadmoor Art Academy in 1924 and that same year the Broadmoor Hotel founder, Spencer Penrose, had organized the Broadmoor Polo Association. Davey was already known as a first-class polo player. He left Colorado Springs in 1931 when polo declined as a Broadmoor sport.
Painter, printmaker and sculptor, Randall Davey achieved a position as a noted artist in early 20th-century American art – first in New York and after 1920 in the art community of Santa Fe, New Mexico. His subject matter included portraits, still lifes, nude figures, landscapes and the horse-racing genre crafted in a modern realist style. He handled a variety of mediums – oils, pastels, watercolors and etching, evolving a style “highly individual of the medium employed.”
Born into a comfortable middle-class suburban family, at his father’s behest he began studying architecture at Cornell University in 1905 instead of art that was his preference. However, two years later before finishing his degree he moved to New York to pursue a fine arts career. Initially he studied at the New York School of Art with academician Robert Henri, the teacher of a number of the Ashcan School and of the early-day Santa Fe and Taos artists. Davey also studied briefly at the Art Students League in New York with Charles W. Hawthorne, before joining Henri at his newly-founded School of Art. He painted and traveled extensively with Henri throughout Europe, Maine and, as the assistant instructor in his teacher’s painting classes in Spain in 1912. Unlike the Ashcan School artists who painted gritty urban scenes of America, Davey specialized in portraiture capturing the sitter’s spirit, character and personality mindful of Henri’s tenant that “the artist who draws the spirit of his sitter accomplishes more than the man who paints a portrait.”
In 1913 Davey was included in the groundbreaking New York Armory Show, formally known as the International Exhibition of Modern Art, that introduced American audiences to the art of the Impressionists, Post Impressionists, Expressionists, Fauves, and Cubists for the first time. It energized his career, earning him in 1915 the Second Hallgarten Prize from the National Academy of Design in New York and Honorable Mention at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. He also was included in the First Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists at the Grand Central Palace in New York in 1917.
In the summer of 1919, at Henri’s suggestion, Davey and John Sloan drove out with their wives to Santa Fe. Henri previously visited the art colony as did their colleagues, George Bellows and Leon Kroll. Davey and his first wife immediately fell in love with the locale, permanently relocating there in 1920 after he finished teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago School. He purchased an unused stone mill and other buildings in Santa Fe, converting them into his studio and home where he lived for the next forty-four years. In 1983 the Randall Davey Foundation gave the property to the National Audubon Society. A registered national historic site, it is now known as the Randall Davey Audubon Center in Santa Fe. He later said of his adopted home, “I wouldn’t trade my life here where I can hunt, shoot, ride, for all the committee-going and boot-licking you’ve got to do in a city for anything. An artist might starve for food here, but he’ll starve spiritually in a place like New York.”
While enjoying the freedom of living in New Mexico, Davey maintained contact over the years with New York. Prestigious galleries including Ferargil, Grand Central, Kraushaar, Macbeth, Montross, Rehn and Seligman hosted his solo shows, and his work was included in national juried shows such at the National Academy of Design in New York and the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. In 1925 he served on the organizational committee of the George Bellows Memorial Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He likewise maintained long-standing friendships and memberships in the Lotos Club and the Century Association. Enjoying the ambience of Santa Fe that reminded him of Spain and Cuba, he generally preferred Hispanic subjects for his portraits in contrast to the many artists in New Mexico who painted the local Pueblo Indians. At the same time, he also painted portraits of leading cultural figures outside of New Mexico, such as John Galsworthy, English novelist and playwright, and Paul Robeson, Black American athlete, actor, singer, and civil rights activist.
Davey’s teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute (1921-1924) and his recognition as a portraitist led to his five-year engagement as professor of portraiture in the summer classes at the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs starting in 1925. In that position he succeeded Robert Reid, one of the Ten American Painters, the group of distinguished American impressionists founded in 1898. Ill health forced Reid to curtail his activities after having taught at the Academy since its opening in 1920. Like his illustrious predecessor, Davey was very sociable and popular with his students. Among those in his first classes were Colorado Springs native, Grace Landell Bartlett, and future Missouri regionalist, Frederick Shane, professor of art at the University of Missouri-Columbus for a generation beginning in 1932.
Davey’s earlier association with Robert Henri in New York initially introduced students at the Broadmoor Art Academy to the ideas of “The Eight” (also known as the Ashcan School of American realism) which helped pave the way for the historic 1913 Armory Show. In his classes at Colorado Springs Davey used a color diagram which he previously had employed at the Kansas City Art Institute. The diagram was based on Henri’s interest in the color theories developed by Hardesty G. Maratta in the first decade of the twentieth century. Maratta devised a system that assigned each color to a corresponding musical note, directing artists to combine colors at prescribed intervals with “chords” to achieve a harmonious effect. It allows for the expression of each artist’s unique sensitivity to color, as reflected in Davey’s small plein-air landscape (circa 1927) of a cabin near Estes Park, Colorado. On the state’s Eastern Slope he did an impressionistic plein-air painting of livestock grazing on a ranch in the vicinity of Colorado Springs.
In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he enjoyed the city’s social life as a bon vivant. Known at the Newport of the Rockies, Colorado Springs was a major polo center in the West affording him the opportunity to engage in the sport with Spencer Penrose who, with his wife Julie, had donated the family residence at 30 West Dale in 1919 for the purpose of establishing the Broadmoor Art Academy. Davey’s ownership of polo ponies and playing the sport necessitated a salary twice the standard rate at the school, creating some discord with his fellow teachers who were paid considerably less, including Ernest Lawson of “The Eight” who taught there in the late 1920s.
Davey’s love of horses occasioned a large number of equestrian oils, watercolors and prints devoted to polo and horseracing. His oil painting, In the Stretch, captures the “nervous excitement and intensity” of the racetrack experience. It exemplifies the view of noted New York art critic, Henry McBride, who termed Davey’s creative output in the horse racing genre as “boldly painted and rather sinfully alluring…They are painted in a clean, direct way, and there is a certain openness of the work that suggests there has been no cheating in the way the effects have been arrived at.”
Following his summer teaching sessions at the Broadmoor Art Academy, in 1931 Davey served as a juror on the selection committee for the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh. He also was a juror for exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and for the 1939 Biennial Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
As a result of his connections with the Broadmoor art Academy and Colorado Springs, Spencer Penrose commissioned him to paint murals in 1936 at the Will Rogers Memorial Shrine of the Sun overlooking the city. Assisted by Santa Fe artist, Józef Bakoś, the murals – restored in 1994 by Eric Bransby – depict scenes of historical personages and events of the Pike’s Peak region: Native Americans, Zebulon Pike’s travels, Cripple Creek mining, William Jackson Palmer (founder of Colorado Springs), and Spencer Penrose (philanthropist and developer). Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the shrine honors Will Rogers (1879-1935), American cowboy humorist and author known for his Broadway and film performances, who died in an airplane crash in Alaska while the shrine was under construction.
In addition to his murals for the Will Rogers Shrine, Davey won commissions for two New Deal-era post office murals: one of Will Rogers for Claremore, Oklahoma (1939) and the other illustrating the History of the Cherokee Nation in three murals for Vinta, Oklahoma (1941). Under one of the era’s federal government art project he also created a polo mural originally planned for the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, but which remained in Santa Fe at the city’s National Guard Military Museum.
In 1938 Davey was elected a National Academician. His work won him continuing recognition: the Thomas B. Clarke American Figure Composition Prize (1938), the Benjamin Altman Prize for figure painting (1941), and Thomas R. Proctor Prize for portraiture (1955). His painting, Rainy Day at the Track, was purchased for the Encyclopedia Britannica Collection of Contemporary American Art. He belonged to National Association of Portrait Painters, the Painters-Gravers Society, and the National Association of Mural Painters. Beginning in 1945 he taught for eleven years at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and in 1957 was elected an honorary member at the School of American Research in Santa Fe. At age 77 he died in a car accident near Baker, California.
Solo Exhibitions: Art Institute of Chicago (1915, 1917); Macbeth Gallery, New York (1916); Chappell House-Denver Art Museum (1927 with Ernest Lawson); Rehn Galleries, New York (1930); Buffalo Fine Arts Academy-Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (1931); Albright- Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York (1931); Ferargil Art Galleries, New York (1934); Dayton Art Institute, Ohio (1935); C.W. Kraushaar Art Galleries, New York (1938); Grand Central Art Galleries, New York (1944); Kleeman Galleries, New York (1947); Cowie Galleries, Los Angeles, California (1950); New Mexico Museum of Art (1957, 1963); Retrospective Show of Randall Davey Paintings, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe; Museum of the Southwest, Midland, Texas; J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky (1962-63); Randall Davey, Roswell Museum and Art Center, New Mexico (1962-63); Randall Davey, 1887-1964, David Findlay Galleries, New York (1967); Jamison Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1977); Randall Davey (1887-1964), Munson Gallery, Santa Fe (1997).
Group Exhibitions: Independent Artists, New York (1910); Armory Show, New York, (1913); Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (1913-1949); National Academy of Design, New York (1915-1955); Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts, Philadelphia (1915, 1916); Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, California (1915); 28th Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, Art Institute of Chicago (1915-16); First Annual Exhibition, Society of Independent Artists, New York (1917); Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York(1919); First Annual Exhibition: Contemporary International Art, Dallas Art Association, Texas (1919); Montross Gallery, New York (1922); Fourth Annual Exhibition of the Dallas Art Association, Halaby Gallery, Dallas (1923); The Taos Society of Artists, Wichita Art Association (1922); Fifth Annual Exhibition of the Dallas Art Association at Stonleigh Court, Dallas Art Association, Texas (1925); Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Leading Living American Artists, Dallas Art Association (1927); Painting and Sculpture from 16 American Cities, Museum of Modern Art, New York (1933-34); Golden Jubilee Exhibition of the State Fair of Texas, Dallas Museum of Art (1938); New Mexico National Academicians, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe (1964); The New Mexico Painters, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe (1999); Side by Side on Monhegan: The Henri Circle and the American Impressionists, Monhegan Museum, Monhegan Island, Maine (2004); Annual Exhibition of Small Oils, Watercolors, and Pastels, Owings Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2005); Southwestern Allure: The Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony, Boca Museum of Art, Florida (2013).
Collections: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine; Mead Art Museum-Amherst College, Massachusetts; Delaware Art Institute, Wilmington; Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida; Detroit Art Institute, Michigan; Art Institute of Chicago; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, Indiana; Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas; Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock; Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Norman, Oklahoma; El Paso Museum of Art, Texas; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Museum of the Southwest, Midland, Texas; Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas; Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas; University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe; Jonson Gallery of University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; San Diego Museum of Art, California; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.