Crystal Bridges becomes latest (and last) stop for exhibit featuring noted American artist Stuart Davis

Particularly later in life, Stuart played with repeating themes and altered color patterns of his works. A collection of more than 80 works from the American artist are now on display in Bentonville.

Photo: Kevin Kinder

The first room of the newly installed exhibit “Stuart Davis: In Full Swing” reveals much about the late American painter. There’s a self-portrait from 1912 of Davis as a New York City bohemian. There’s also one of his later works, from the 1960s, after he grew fond of a color palette consisting almost exclusively of black and green and red and wouldn’t let go. In between are works that show his updates on cubism and the influences of European modernists. All the while, jazz music – a major influence on his style and a soundtrack to his working timeline – plays within the gallery.

What: “Stuart Davis: In Full Swing”
When: Sept 16 through January
Where: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville
Cost: Free for members and those 18 and younger; $8 for adults
Information: Call 479-418-5700 or visit

Exhibition Chat

What: Exhibition opening chat with Harry Cooper, curator and head of modern art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 15
Where: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville
Cost: Free, but reservations must be made by calling 479-657-2335

“In Full Swing” debuts today (Sept. 15) at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for museum members and Sept. 16 for the general public. The stop in Bentonville comes after exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art and the de Young Museum. Curators from the Whitney and National Gallery assembled the more than 80 works from museums and private collections.

“In Full Swing” takes visitors from the introductory room into a chronological telling of the Philadelphia-born artist’s life and work. His first formal studies were under the tutelage of the famed American artist Robert Henri. But Davis later found inspiration in the works of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse and the city of Paris itself, where a 1928 visit left a lasting influence. Works based on scenes and motifs he discovered in Paris would show up throughout his next four decades of work.

Bridging the gap between several major artistic movements, Davis wasn’t exactly an American cubist, but he wasn’t quite an abstract expressionist, either. And he also made what we would come to know as pop art before there was a genre, says Harry Cooper, curator for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., who was on hand for a Thursday preview of the exhibit.

Examples of many of Davis’ shifting styles can be found in the exhibit. Among the highlights, says Cooper, who served as co-curator for the project, are a group of still life works called the Egg Beater Series. Three of the four “eggbeater” works made by Davis, which are typically spread around the country in different collections, hang together at Crystal Bridges.

“It’s a reason to do a Davis show. It gets these paintings together,” Cooper says.

Crystal Bridges director of curatorial affairs Margi Conrads, who was also on hand for Thursday’s preview, talked about the meticulous planning Davis put into his works before he painted. Examples of his plans can be found in a series of sketches on display as part of the exhibit. But, like the players of the jazz music he so dearly loved, Davis would let his works move him.

Curator Harry Cooper of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., stands in front of two of Stuart Davis’ works in the “Egg Beater” series, which were said to be made from an egg beater, a rubber glove and various other household objects.

Photo: Kevin Kinder

“He allows room for mistakes, and he turns them into improvisations,” Conrads said.

In a true nod to the chronological telling of Davis’ story, the last work in the exhibit is likely the last one Davis worked on before he died in 1964 at the age of 71. Appropriately titled “Fin” – which is the French word for ‘end’ – the work contains masking tape on it, clearly still a work in progress, but also one of substantial promise.

Like all major temporary exhibits at Crystal Bridges, the museum has organized a series of interactive events and programs to coincide with the works. Among those for “In Full Swing” is a mid-exhibition sitting room designed by local interior designer Chris Goddard. Patrons can sit in the 1950s-inspired living room and listen to jazz music.

The exhibit is open during the museum’s hours, but guests should reserve a spot to attend. Special tours are given at 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. Spots on the tours should also be booked in advance.

A trip to Paris inspired many of Davis’ works, including “Arch Hotel,” a 1929 oil-on-canvas work from the Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and provided by the Anna R. and Frank M. Hall Charitable Trust.


Crystal Bridges founder announces art sharing organization Art Bridges

Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress, philanthropist and founder of Crystal Bridges, announced a new endeavor on Thursday that seeks to expand access to American Art. Art Bridges, as the organization is called, will partner with more than a half dozen major art institutions to share art between the museums and other institutions. The partnership with organizations such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum is already sending out works and fostering an environment for affiliated museums to create innovation programs around the loaned art.

“Our country’s significant works of art should be available for all to see and enjoy,” said Walton in a press release announcing the creating of Art Bridges. “Outstanding artworks are in museum vaults and private collections; let’s make that art available to everyone, and provide a way to experience these cultural treasures.”

A list of the works currently in the Art Bridges foundation can be found at the group’s website at

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