Apart from his role in organizing the revolutionary Armory Show of 1913, American painter Arthur B. Davies (1862-1928) is best remembered for his frothy, sylvan dreamscapes filled with prancing, ethereal nudes. But even his staunch collector Duncan Phillips thought that Davies had done all he should with that particular genre, and advised him to return to real landscape.
Davies took the advice and, swapping invented idylls for real ones, spent his last years traveling through Italy and France making watercolors of hill towns with olive groves and church towers. Masterfully and swiftly rendered with color highlights in pastel, they evoked happy memories, a sense of timeless tranquillity, and they sold like hot cakes. When Davies returned to New York with more than 300 such watercolors a year before his death, he sold nearly all of them, netting $50,000.
Lo and behold, some of these late watercolors from the Davies estate have now turned up for sale at Kathleen Ewing Gallery. And not only that: They are in the company of photographs by Davies' great-grandson, young Washington photographer Mac Cosgrove-Davies.
The family legacy appears to include great-grandfather's romantic view of life. For these photographic images -- whether of a lone tree, a stone bridge or a deserted railroad station -- all have a distinctly nostalgic 19th-century look, even though they were taken outside Washington, on Connecticut Avenue, and in Owings Mills, Md.
The old-fashioned look comes from the 19th-century gum-bichromate printing process Cosgrove-Davies uses, in which paper is sensitized with a solution that includes watercolor pigment, making it possible to print in color from a black-and-white negative. The color that shows through the print, however, is pale and recalls old, faded, hand-tinted images -- the hues more remembered than seen. Great-grandfather Davies had a related trick: he often chose appropriately colored papers for his watercolors, leaving the basic description of the gray skies of southern France or the blue skies of Italy to the gray- or blue-toned paper upon which he worked.
Taken together, this makes an intriguing little show, and it can be seen at Ewing, 1609 Connecticut Ave. NW, through Oct. 18. Hours are Wednesdays through Saturdays, noon to 6. Sculpture to Walk On
Enter art you can walk on! In her new show at Gallery 10, Washington artist Sarah Stout Gooding is introducing arrangements of sculptural stepping stones actually meant to be set in the ground and used. For those in the market for such things, they offer a distinctly improved alternative to the cement castings of tree-trunk slices sold at local garden shops.
But there's more to the best of Gooding's ground-pieces, which range in size from 12 to 42 blocks, all cast in Portland cement. They are also abstract relief sculptures (some more interesting than others) designed to catch the changing light and shadow of day, reminding not only your feet but your eyes that you're walking on something special. Some are stone gray, others tinted reddish-green, the latter meant to disappear under autumn leaves. The idea, though still in its nascent stage, seems filled with yet unexplored commercial possibilities; the sculptures could be mass produced.
But she has explored other, more purely sculptural alternatives as well, both in a pedestal piece made from a grouping of four sensuously rounded green forms and an even more affecting floor-piece made of six oblong blocks of pink "stones" casually stacked so as to evoke the sense of ancient architectural ruins.
Best known until now for her fabric collages and wall-hung paper reliefs, Gooding is also showing a new series of etchings, all printed on handmade paper from two different plates and then folded around balsa dowels and secured with silk thread. The colors are dour and restrained -- mostly browns and grays -- and look more like Japanese packaging than the unflyable kites featured in her last show. This show, which catches Gooding in the process of moving into bolder sculptural forms, will continue through Oct. 27. Gallery 10, at 1519 Connecticut Ave., is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 5. The Drawings of Anna Ticho
Anna Ticho was Israel's most famous landscape artist until her death in 1980. Born in 1894 in Vienna, at 18 she moved to Israel when it was still an outpost of the Turkish empire. Overwhelmed by the timeless, barren landscape around her, she began a process she would continue for 50 years: working in situ, making documentary sketches of the Judean hills in various seasons and conditions of light, using the ultimate restraint of limiting herself to black line on white or colored paper.
But the amazing part of her story began at age 70, when she took a great risk and began working exclusively in her studio, taking images from the vast store in her imagination. Using color for the first time -- albeit still with great restraint -- she began to produce some of the finest and most powerful drawings of her career. It is the works from these last 10 years that make up the show now at the Jewish Community Center art gallery in Rockville.
If the work seems at first unprepossessing -- all parched, barren, scraggly landscapes, still chiefly black and white -- look again. For there is, in fact, tremendous variety and vigor here, the sense of an artist going full tilt.
And that she was, as she explored various modes of expression within the modernist vocabulary. There are two distinct variations visible here: a semi-abstract style consisting of cross-hatchings -- an easy manner that she did not choose to pursue; and another, obviously influenced by Ce'zanne, wherein she reduced "Jerusalem Landscape" and "Evening" to their bare visual essentials, producing some of the finest works in the show. The tightly drawn "Overgrown Rocks," in a third mode, could be mistaken for an old master drawing.
These drawings seduce slowly and take time, for they are intimate, intense visions. But their power is unforgettable. The show continues through Oct. 28 at 6125 Montrose Rd., Rockville. Hours are Mondays through Thursdays, noon to 4 and 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Sundays 2 to 5 p.m.