Seen Up Close: Stuart Davis's "Hot Still-Scape"

Stuart Davis, Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors - 7th Avenue Style, oil on canvas, 36 x 44 7/8 inches

One of the greatest paintings by one of my favorite artists, "Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors" by Stuart Davis is a cornerstone of the Lane Collection at the Boston MFA. As you can see, the work is a marvel of dynamism and angular dialogue: the eye jumps all around the canvas. The graphic look and popping color scheme of this masterpiece make it a natural for reproduction in any form from postcard to poster to digital representation online.

Visiting the MFA yesterday, I went for a good look, and was reminded once again why it's important to view art in person. In the case of "Hot Still-Scape," the composition and colors only tell half the story. The other half is in the unruliness of the brush work and the dense build up of oil paint, which together make this hard edged, geometric work come alive as a physical, sensual entity. So I went in close with the iPhone to capture some of the rough magic. The rectangle I captured is from the middle left. Consider it a passage or movement from the larger symphony, with its own internal relationships and logic. Painting might be passe and forever out of vogue, but only painting can do this.

Davis, Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors, detail


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