James G. Davis

James G. Davis

(1931–2016)


James G. Davis had a quiet voice, but his paintings spoke loudly and with eloquence, humor and rich narratives. His works have been shown across Europe and America, and are in collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery and Hirshhorn Museum, both in Washington D.C., and the Tucson Museum of Art.

Davis was born in Springfield, Missouri, one of six brothers. “His life was totally bizarre and interesting,”
says his wife Mary Anne Davis. His mother died when he was just three, and the rest of his adolescence took several uncanny twists involving time in an orphanage, a train accident that took half of a foot, dropping out of school in 9th grade, and odd jobs such as a bellhop just to survive.

While he struggled, he drew. And he loved it. He eventually went to Wichita State University, got his BFA
and MFA, taught, and met his wife Mary Anne. They eventually settled in Tucson in 1968, where Davis taught at the University of Arizona until he retired as professor emeritus in 1990. A lot of his paintings are about the observations of everyday people and their struggles and pursuits. He was the champion of the everyman. There’s a struggle to represent the daily conflicts and loneliness and aspirations of the people all around him.

Upon his retirement from the UA, Davis filled the subsequent years with travel, exhibitions and painting.
He slowed down and stopped painting about five years ago, but he took up the harmonica and found joy in playing it for others. “He melded into a very beautiful person, so sweet and gentle,” said Mary Anne. “He wanted to go somewhere every day. He loved a glass of wine, and he never stopping saying, ‘I love you.’”