Stuart Davis and "The Egg Beater Series" By Way of De Chirico

While the Valentine Gallery’s program built its reputation by showing School of Paris paintings, Valentine Dudensing also organized important exhibitions of American artists. In addition, he was known to have been generous with young artists and allowed them to peruse the contemporary European art in his inventory.

Stuart Davis (1892-1964) was one artist who benefitted from the dealer’s largesse. Dudensing included Davis in a group show in the fall of 1927; at that time he was organizing the first U.S. exhibition of Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings from the inventory of the Parisian art dealer, Paul Guillaume.

It seems likely then that Davis saw an image of de Chirico’s The Song of Love (1914; Museum of Modern Art, NY) at the gallery. The painting belonged to Guillaume and featured a rubber glove nailed to a wall, hanging next to a classical plaster head. While he did not end up showing this particular work, Dudensing included five paintings from 1913-14 in which de Chirico depicts arrangements of strangely unrelated objects. Paintings by Giorgio de Chirico opened at the Valentine Gallery in late January 1928 and the exhibition was a tremendous success.*

Between the late fall of 1927 and the spring of 1928, Stuart Davis devoted himself to working on what became known as “the Egg Beater Series.” He nailed a fan, a rubber glove, and an eggbeater to a table top and spent months painting this composition. Did de Chirico’s painting inspire the series? Based on the date of Davis's first study for the series -- November 6, 1927 -- it seems likely that it did.

From April to May 1928, Dudensing presented Davis’s Eggbeater series in a joint exhibition with paintings by Glenn Coleman. While Davis’s works remained unsold after the exhibition, his paintings were considered a critical success.** As he later recalled his intent for the series was to “strip a subject down to the real physical source of its stimulus. Everything I have done since is based on the eggbeater idea.”***

Today the four Eggbeater paintings are in American museum collections:

Egg Beater No. 1 - Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Egg Beater No. 2 - Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth

Egg Beater No. 3 - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Egg Beater No. 4 - Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

 

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Special thanks to Timothy Andrus for providing the dates of Davis's studies for the series and to Lynn Rother of MoMA for confirming the provenance of the de Chirico painting.

*For more on de Chirico at the Valentine Gallery, see my post of October 18, 2016.

**Edward Alden Jewell, "Davis Tames a Shrew: How What Seemed 'Abstract' Proved 'Realistic,'" New York Times (April 29, 1928), Sec. C, p. 18.

***Stuart Davis quoted in Stuart Davis, exh. cat. (NY: Museum of Modern Art, 1945), pp. 16-17.

 

 

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