“Siamese Cat in Tree”
Stark Davis (American, 1885-1950)
Oil on canvas, signed l.r.
27 x 29 ¾ (34 x 36 ¼) inches
Winthrop Stark Davis was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1885. He subsequently lived and worked in Chicago, where he was affiliated with several arts institutions including the Palette and Chisel Club. Davis exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1924 and at the Chicago Galleries Association in 1930, winning prizes in both shows.
Stark Davis was a well-known and modestly successful artist living and painting in Chicago during the ’twenties. He created primarily aviary and small animal compositions in oil, watercolor and gouache. He is best known for his colorful oil paintings of parrots and macaws, and his easily recognized paintings are still sold frequently in contemporary art auctions for $15,000-$20,000.
During the 1920s and 1930s Stark Davis's illustrations appeared on covers of the Ladies' Home Journal, and in numerous advertisements, and from 1927 to 1929, Davis's artistic and colorful "Bird Series" of ads for Lincoln automobiles ran in popular magazines such as Country Life and Home and Garden. A typical ad would feature a Lincoln sedan or coupe in the foreground, with a peacock, a wide-eyed red bird of paradise, or a condor dramatically filling the background or framing the scene.
During the 1920’s, the Lincoln Motor Company, under the direction of Edsel Ford, not only engaged the finest coach builders in America to build Lincoln bodies, but also commissioned the best graphic artists in the United States and Europe to illustrate Lincoln’s print advertising. The most colorful and dramatically composed automotive advertisements of the 1920s are what have become known as the “Lincoln Bird Ads,” were by Stark Davis. So iconic and successful were the ads that the Lincoln automobile company created compiled all his outstanding compositions into a booklet.
During his time in Chicago, Davis would make trips to Santa Barbara, California, and subsequently relocated to Los Angeles, where he worked at the Disney Animation Studios and exhibited at the Ainslie Gallery in 1936.
It's possible Stark Davis was another victim of the Great Depression who sought opportunity in California. By 1947, Davis had retired from painting and was living in Morro Bay, a seaside town on California's Central Coast. Stark Davis passed away in Marin County, California, at age 65. He will always be remembered for the highly distinctive and, many say, the quintessential automotive ads of the 1920’s.