New York

Stuart Davis

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Stuart Davis, American Painter”—the title of his first retrospective since 1966—begs the question of just how heavily Davis’ success has leaned on nationalistically biased evaluation. But then doubts of this sort have haunted Davis’ career since he was first exposed to European Modernism at the fateful Armory Show in 1913, a contact that ended his previous commitment to the drab but gutsy Ashcan School realism he had so precociously mastered. Though Davis would go on to produce brash, in-your-face illustrations for The Masses during the teens, his painting of the same period breaks out in a spectacular array of Continental diseases contracted from Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso; indeed, it required more than the usual scholarly mettle to linger long before the apprenticeship work displayed in the first rooms of the show. In two self-portraits from 1919,

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