CANCEL THAT TRIP to Paris. Our Town's art museums have brought the essence of the City on the Seine to Washington. Stuart Davis, celebrated at the National Museum of American Art, is the fourth Paris-inspired American modernist to be given a retrospective here this spring.

Davis (1892-1964) is at once the most American and the most Parisian of the four. His work pulses with the deep colors and lyric rhythms of jazz, that most American of all musical styles, which ironically was partially developed overseas by black Americans who found in Paris and elsewhere on the continent a freedom and acceptance denied them at home. Many Davis paintings, especially the later abstracts, are simply a tangible form of the jazz tunes he loved to play on the piano.

Washington is the only American venue for this exhibition, which was organized in Venice by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and also has been shown in Rome and Amsterdam. The 56 paintings, including two not shown in Europe, could hardly fit better with the Paris-flavored Alexander Calder and Mark Rothko shows at the National Gallery of Art and the Richard Diebenkorn retrospective at the Phillips Collection.

The Davis exhibition is enriched with family photographs, memorabilia, sketchbooks and diaries lent by his son Earl, the genial and effective caretaker of his father's artistic legacy. His father's evolution as a painter "closely paralleled the development of jazz," Earl Davis says. He adds that "from the 1950s on, 80 percent of his paintings were based on earlier works," new licks and riffs on familiar themes.

Familiarity breeds content in this show. Davis was accepted as a full-fledged (and hard-drinking) member of the Ashcan School while still in his teens, and produced enduring examples of the movement's mannered, pseudo-nitty-gritty style, emphatically represented here by a pair of 1912 paintings, the snow-spattered "Consumer Coal Company" and a mock-heroic self-portrait.

Then, like so many other young American artists, Davis was blindsided by the famous 1913 New York Armory Show. From his diary: "I was enormously excited by the show, and responded particularly to Gauguin, Van Gogh and Matisse. I also sensed an objective order in these works which I felt was lacking in my own {and} resolved to become a modern' artist."

He began intensive experimentation with European styles. There was a brief fling with cubist still lifes and a dalliance with impressionism that in 1919 produced another delicious self-portrait, in the style of Van Gogh. The knockout of his pre-Paris days, however, was a series of consumer-product portraits, of which the high point is "Odol" (1924), a meticulously executed painting of a bottle of mouthwash. Like all of his pictures, Davis said, it started with "a simple impulse to make something, which is always something specific, something outside myself. It could be a box of matches on the table, it could be a news report."

By the time he first went to Paris, in 1928, Davis had already worked his way through his European models and had begun to go his own way. The Odol painting was seminal, a breakthrough work credited with influencing early pop artists. The earlier, artier "Bull Durham" (1921) shows Davis gathering his nerve for the unpretentious examination of the ordinary that was so quietly revolutionary.

"Davis thoroughly digested European avant-garde styles in the 1920s," says gallery director and coordinating curator Elizabeth Broun, "and then he went on to create an irreverent, forceful, witty, abstract style that gave America a distinctive modern idiom. Critics of his own generation recognized him as a major master, and his reputation has only grown larger since then."

Or, as one critic put it in an appreciation following Davis's death, "he was one of the limited company of major painters America has produced. He was never out of date. Whatever happened in the world of art already seemed to have a precedent in his painting." The truth of that observation is underscored by these four fortuitously timed exhibitions, especially when they're taken in the order of Davis, Calder, Rothko and Diebenkorn. STUART DAVIS -- Through Sept. 7 at the National Museum of American Art, Eighth and F streets NW (Metro: Gallery Place). 202/357-2700. Open 10 to 5:30 daily. Web site:

Special events connected to the exhibit include: WEDNESDAY -- "Jazzed About Stuart Davis" concert at 7 in the museum's Lincoln Gallery by the Dick Morgan Quartet, with introduction by director Elizabeth Broun. Exhibition tour follows. Co-sponsored by Smithsonian Associates; tickets $19. Call 202/357-3030. JUNE 23 -- Hirshhorn curator Judith Zilczer discusses Davis paintings held by that museum at 2. NMAA lobby. JULY 8 -- "Jazzed About Stuart Davis" concert at 7 in the Lincoln Gallery by the Bill Harris Trio, with introduction by Deborah Macanic of the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service. Exhibition tour follows. Co-sponsored by Smithsonian Associates; tickets $19. Call 202/357-3030. JULY 12 and AUG. 14 -- Videos shown at 2: "Stuart Davis Interview" (1956; 29 minutes) and "Jazz: Earl Hines and Coleman Hawkins" (1965; 28 mins.); both produced by Rhapsody Films, Inc. JULY 29 -- Diane Tepfer, curator of the State Department Art in Embassies Program, discusses Davis's "Int'l Surface No. 1" (1960) at 1. Lobby. AUG. 2 -- "Stuart Davis's Word Pictures" lecture at 2 by art historian Lewis Kachur of Kean College, N.J. Lecture Hall. AUG. 5 -- Director Broun discusses Davis's "Colonial Cubism" (1954) at 1. Lobby. AUG. 6 -- "Jazz for Lunch" at noon (free). Larry Eanet, James King and Harold Summey perform Davis's favorite jazz classics. Lobby. AUG. 8 -- The NMAA's Claire Larkin discusses Davis's sojourn in Gloucester, Mass., at 2. Lobby. SEPT. 2 -- Larkin discusses Davis's "Waterfront Landscape" (1936) at 1. Lobby. CAPTION: Stuart Davis dabbled with impressionism (as in this 1919 self-portrait) . . . CAPTION: . . . before creating the visual equivalent of jazz in such works as "Landscape With Garage Lights" (1932).