Stuart Davis

Stuart Davis

American, 1892–1964
Unfinished Business
1962, oil on canvas, 91.5 x 114.3 cm (36 x 45 in.)

When the Philadelphia-born Davis exhibited at the Armory Show in 1913 he was one of the youngest participants. Beginning in the 1920s he brought the graphic sensibility and restricted palette of commercial advertising into his art. These qualities are evident in one of the artist’s last paintings, Unfinished Business, in which Davis engages viewers in a bit of visual word play. An assortment of Xs and Os suggests tic-tac-toe players that have slipped off their grid. In the lower right quadrant, “Edy” is rendered in script, and along the right edge “PAD” is printed. The former is likely a variation of the sequence “Ideas—Eyedas—Eyedeas” that Davis recorded in one of his sketchbooks, also known as sketch-pads or “pads.” Combined with the letters “NO” at left we may surmise that Davis was referring to the American poet William Carlos Williams’ famous axiom, “No ideas but in things.”