Study for History of Communications Mural

MMAA_80.08.01w.jpg

Artist

Stuart Davis
1892-1964
Born in Philadelphia, PA

Title

Study for History of Communications Mural

Date

1939

Description

Stuart Davis' preliminary study for his History of Communications mural features illustrations related to methods of communication, including speech, text, film, television, and radio. Commissioned for the 1939 World's Fair, Davis blanketed his composition with objects strewn all over and overlapping and drawn in black bold lines on a white background. None of these singular images stand above the other in size, value, or position. Charting the progression of communication in America, in the lower right the images include letters, a male messenger, sign language for writing, a large hand, in the center a phonograph, telephone wires, a mailed letter, and on the left newspaper, a microphone, television camera, and a roll of film.

Medium

Ink on paper

Dimension

14 15/16 x 34 inches

Credit Line

Purchase, Acquisition Fund

Object ID

80.08.01

Notes

Davis created four murals in the 1930s. The largest and most complex of these murals was the Communications Mural, which was privately commissioned for the 1939 World's Fair. The mural was designed for the Communications Pavilion and was later destroyed when the fair was dismantled. The original measured 44 feet high and 136 feet long. Davis' concept involved painting with white luminescent lines on a black background. The study featured here illustrates the mural in reverse, with black lines on a white background.

Davis wrote over twenty pages of theoretical notations regarding the imagery of the mural. "My purpose is to make a work of Art, made of spatial elements associated with Communications [...] to be simple and easy to remember. Its tone-element is limited to white on black." According to his notations, the range of subjects organized across the mural included speech and language, writing and printing, drawing and painting, camera and motion picture, television and the telegraph, song and music, telephone and the radio, and the phonograph.

Publications

Kammen, Michael. Gilbert Seldes and the Transformation of Culture of Criticism in the United States, 4. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Rasmussen, David. Reading Habermas, cover. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1990.

Wilken, Karen. Stuart Davis, 152. Cross River Press, 1987.

Wilson, Richard Guy. The Machine Age in America 1918-1941, 30. Brooklyn, NY: The Brooklyn Museum, 1986.

Weber, Bruce. Stuart Davis' New York, 68. West Palm Beach, FL: Norton Gallery & School of Art, 1985.

Holman, Thomas S. American Style: Early Modernist Works in Minnesota Collections, cover and 49. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Museum of Art, 1981.

Rights Statement

In Copyright