I am the owner of an established fine art gallery specializing in American paintings from the 19th through the 21st centuries. As a private dealer our works are shown by appointment and displayed at numerous antique and fine art shows throughout the Northeast.
Randall Davey was born in New Jersey in 1887 and as a young man moved to New York to become an artist. Randall Davey began studies under Robert Henri first at the New York School of Art in 1908 and later, at Henri's own school, studying along side other important artists such as George Bellows, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent and Stuart Davis.1 Robert Henri was an important American artist and influential teacher espousing the merits of painting the urban scenes of America as they actually were, not the idealized views that many painters of the day produced. Come to be known as the Ashcan School, this movement dealt with the social and political realities of the day, often times catching the spontaneous moments of everyday life.
Like Henri, Randall Davey specialized in portraiture spending much time capturing the spirit, character and personality of the sitter. "...the artist who draws the spirit of his sitter accomplishes more than the man who paints a portrait..." was an essential tenet of Henri's teaching.2 During summers, Davey painted and traveled extensively with Henri throughout Europe, Maine and, as the assistant instructor in Henri's summer painting classes, Spain.
In 1910, Randall Davey exhibited alongside Henri at the group exhibition of Independent Artists and again, in 1913, at the highly influential Armory Show New York. He participated in the founding of The Society of Independent Artists in 1916, and spent that summer painting in Gloucester, MA with John Sloan and the "Red Cottage Artists", Alice Beach Winter, Charles Allan Winter and Agnes Richmond.3
Gloucester long has held an allure for many artists, allowing for professional exploration and experimentation. For Robert Henri it was experimenting with a new color theory, for some it was the clear clean light of Cape Ann, and, for others the architecture. For Randall Davey, it was the seafaring people of the town themselves. Back from two years in the Netherlands and Spain, Davey became aware of "the underlying reasons of racial differences"4 among the immigrant and minority populations and began to incorporate the dreams, hopes and failures of the Gloucester fishing community into his portraits. These character sketches filled the portraits of Gloucester sea captains, like "Old Sea Captain", (Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) with the "dogged determination that he and his forbears has fought the sea"5 in pursuit of their livelihood. In "Portuguese Grandmother" (ex. NAD and PAFA, 1915) and his double portrait "Two Sisters" (ex. PAFA 1916), Randall Davey developed his own interpretation of the reality facing the many Portuguese fishing families of Gloucester in several portraits capturing the "spirit" of the local Gloucester residents.
1 Bennard P. Perlman, The Immortal Eight, p.194
2 Perlman, Op. Cit., p.89
3 Cape Ann Historical Association, The Red Cottage, 1992.
4 Lorinda Munson Bryant, American Pictures and Their Painters, p.290
5 Bryant, Op. Cit., p.289