Abstract Artist Gene B. Davis Dies at 64 : Colorful Canvases of Vertical Stripes Grace Prestigious Galleries

Associated Press

Gene B. Davis, an abstract expressionist artist whose canvases of vertical colored stripes hang in many prestigious art museums and corporate board rooms, died Saturday of a heart attack. He was 64.

Davis, regarded as Washington's most successful painter, was stricken at his home here and died at Sibley Hospital.

He had taught for 15 years at the Corcoran School of Art and at American University and had painted stripes since 1958.

"I'm not giving up stripes," he once said. "If I worked for 50 more years, I wouldn't exhaust the possibilities."

Davis, who favored turtleneck sweaters and had shaved his head bare since the 1950s because "it just seemed like a good thing to do," also liked children's art.

For a local art show in 1983, he exhibited 50 drawings he had done with Crayolas. "Something innocent, childlike, unfrightened always gambols in his art," a critic wrote.

Color School Founder

A native Washingtonian, Davis did not begin a full-time painting career until 1968, after working as a sportswriter, editor and publicist.

He was a founding member of the Washington Color School, an influential art movement of the 1960s that stressed the staining of color on unprimed canvas. He was one of the first living artists to be represented in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art.

Davis' works also are part of the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and the Tate Gallery in London.

In 1972, Davis was featured in the center fold of Life magazine with a picture of "Franklin's Footpath," a 414-foot-long stripe he painted down the middle of the street in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He received commissions for murals for chic department stores in Washington and Bal Harbour, Fla., and a huge $50,000 painting for the New York state Capitol complex at Albany.

Davis arose every morning at 4 to paint in solitude in the white-walled studio of his home.

"I improvise my structure as I go along," he once said. "When I begin work on, say, a 10-by-20-foot canvas, I have only the vaguest idea of where I am going. I just leap in and let the painting take me along for the ride."

Surviving are his wife, Florence, of Washington, and his brother, Norman Davis of Olney, Md.

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