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Stuart Davis was born in Philadelphia on December 7, 1892. After leaving high school in 1910, he attended the Robert Henry art school in New York and exhibited for the first time at the Exhibition of Independent Artists. Upon finishing school in 1913, he began collaborating with the social journal The Masses and showed several of his watercolors at the Armory Show. In 1917 his first solo exhibition took place at the Sheridan Square Gallery, New York. After the war, during which he had served as a cartographer for the U.S. Secret Services, Davis started painting the Tobacco Still Life series in addition to Cubist landscapes. Edith Halpert became his dealer in 1927 and organized the first of many Davis shows at the Downtown Gallery of New York. The following year, Juliana Force of the Whitney Studio Club bought two of his paintings, thus allowing him to move to Paris and stay until the summer of 1929. It was there that he met Fernand Léger.
Back in the U.S. during the 1930s, he worked in the mural-painting division of the WPA Federal Art Project and earned many significant commissions, including the Swing Landscape mural for the Williamsburg Housing Project of Brooklyn, completed in 1938. Davis was also involved in several political and artistic organizations, including the Artists’ Union and the Artists’ Congress, for which he served as National Secretary. He left this job in 1940 to teach for a decade at the New School of Social Research, all the while continuing to exhibit his work. He won first prize at the 1944 exhibition Portrait of America at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the following year, James Johnson Sweeney organized a retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Widely recognized as one of the major figure in American art, Davis won many awards and received honors from various museums and art organizations throughout the 1950s. In 1951 he took part in the first São Paulo Bienal and, the year after, in the Venice Biennale, where he also exhibited in 1956. In 1955 he painted the mural Allee for Drake Unversity in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1958 and 1960 he won the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum International Award, and shortly before his death on June 24, 1964, he received an award from the Art Institute of Chicago.