Arthur Fuller Davis (1863-1953), American
Summer Day, Nagog Brook, undated
oil on board, 8 ½” x 13 3/8”
(framed dimensions: 11 7/8” x 16 7/8”)
signed lower left: "A.F. Davis"
This is a remarkable painting from the easel of a painter whose work, while appreciated locally, is rare to the market and is not well known. The painting is exceptionally well painted and conceived. Davis perfectly captures a summer’s day in Acton, Massachusetts, including a gentle hill with a forested ridge line, the riffling water of Nagog Brook in the foreground, what may be an apple tree at left center and a solitary figure with a walking stick and shade hat – all of which radiate with the warmth of the summer sun breaking through the rolling cumulus clouds overhead. The clouds and pasture are painted freely, and the artist perfectly suggests the distant trees with minimal effort. For the observer, the painting views wonderfully from a short distance but also rewards close viewing as the foreground vegetation is very finely painted with just the slightest amount of impasto, imparting a dimensional quality to the scene. When I first saw this painting, it brought to mind the work of Charles Cahoon, a well-known Cape Cod contemporary of Davis. I surmise that the painting was executed sometime in the first quarter of the 20th century.
There is an index card attached to the reverse of the painting on the occasion of its being presented as a gift in 1975. The typed card indicates that the brook in the painting is Nagog Brook and that the man with the walking stick at center is “Hammond Taylor, used to live on Main St., Acton, Mass.”. Some research seems to indicate this person may be Silas Hammond Taylor, born in 1847. Hammond’s father Silas was a farmer and I suspect Hammond was as well. Hammond married a Ms. Mary Thompson From Nova Scotia and the couple had five children. He was still living in Acton in 1933 at the age of 86. Hammond is referenced in the book ‘Acton In History’, published in 1890, while discussing the route taken by the Acton Minutemen in 1775 when marching to Concord, Massachusetts: “Up the hill they hasten and turn to the right, going by Mr. Hammond Taylor’s present residence, the old Brabrook homestead …”
Arthur Fuller Davis was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1863. His family moved to Acton when he was about 7 years old. The only child of a farmer, Davis graduated from the Acton Center Grammar School and studied art in Malden, Massachusetts with the painter Albion Bicknell in 1885-1886. He later lived in New York City from 1890-1892 where he continued his studies. In 1892, he returned to Acton due to his mother’s ill health. Davis remained in Acton the rest of his life, continuously sketching and painting what he saw on his frequent walks and bicycle trips around town.
Occasionally, the artist traveled to New Hampshire and other areas of Massachusetts such as Annisquam (Gloucester, his mother’s childhood home), Roxbury, Quincy and Cape Cod. Evidence of his travels is found in his sketchbooks owned by the Acton Memorial Library and the Acton Historical Society (which also owns an early painting by Davis of cows done on one of his father’s barn stall doors). Davis was a prolific artist whose paintings document how the town of Acton appeared in the early 20th century. The Acton Memorial Library owns, and has on display, 36 of his oils, watercolors and etchings.
Davis also trained as an etcher and was unwilling to allow anyone to produce etchings of his work other than himself. His etchings generally date 1890 – 1900. He was also the town’s longest serving Librarian, working at the Acton Memorial Library from 1902 to 1945 and for a time was a library trustee. He lived at 491 Main Street in Acton Center, which gave him the enviable work commute of walking across the street.
The book ‘Acton In History’ (1890) has a section written by resident artist Arthur Davis in which he extols the artistic beauty of his town:
“From a picturesque point of view, the near vicinity of running water is most favorable for producing interesting places … Both our Acton brooks [Nagog and Nashoba] are tributary to the Assabet River … like other streams, ours are perhaps the most attractive in the spring and fall, yet no season will be found unattractive about them. Each has its own peculiar charm, which, if noticed, can never fail to give pleasure to the observer. Each nook and corner in their vicinity will amply repay the effort made to visit them, and a spare hour spent about them is looked back upon with interest.”
In later years, arthritis and deteriorating eyesight limited his work.
Davis passed away in 1953 in South Acton at the age of 89. Having never married, he was buried with his parents in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
Davis exhibited with the American Watercolor Society (New York, Boston, Chicago), the Boston Art Club, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
The painting is in excellent condition. It is clean with no paint loss and no inpainting viewable under blacklight. The period gilt frame with laurel leaf and berry detail is of fine quality and is in very good original condition with age appropriate patina and fine but quite stable age cracks along the liner portion. The painting bears an undated exhibition label on the reverse from an exhibition of Davis’ work where the painting was titled “Landscape”. There is also a later label / index card attached from 1975 when the painting was given as a gift which offers details about the location and the identity of the man in the scene though it’s not clear how that information was obtained. There are also gallery labels from two previous dealers attached.
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Arthur Fuller Davis, Summer Day, Nagog Brook, oil painting on board
$2,250 USD SOLD
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