ILLINOIS HISTORICAL ART PROJECT
DAVENPORT GRIFFEN was born at Millbrook, N. Y., in 1894. He studied art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago and with Mme. Exter in Paris, and his outstanding teachers were John Norton and George Oberteuffer. He has sketched and painted in Massachusetts, New York, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Porto Rico, Haiti, Cuba and the Virgin Islands, also in France and England. His work has been exhibited in Chicago, Paris, Los Angeles, San Diego, Buffalo, St. Louis, New York, Philadelphia, Cedar Rapids, Omaha, Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, Toledo, St. Thomas (V. I.), Scranton, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh and other cities. He has had one-artist exhibitions at the Chicago Woman's Aid, the Montross Gallery of New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, Increase Robinson's Studio Gallery, the Illinois Wesleyan University of Bloomington, Illinois, and the Cinema Theatre of Chicago. He is represented in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and in various private collections. His work has been written about in Chicago and New York newspapers, the Literary Digest, the Paris Times, the American Magazine of Art, the Art Digest and the Christian Science Monitor. Critics who have commented on it are C. J. Bulliet, Eleanor Jewett, Daniel Catton Rich, Robert D. Andrews, Tom Vickerman, Margaret Breuning, E. A. Jewell, C. F. Kelley and Royal Cortissoz. He has won the following school awards: The Grand Prize for Composition, American Travel Scholarship, Grand Prize for Composition and the John Quincy Adams Scholarship. Since leaving school he has been awarded the Goodman 1st Prize, in an Art Students League Annual; the R.R. Jenkins Prize, in a Chicago and Vicinity Exhibition at the Art Institute; the Chicago Woman's Club Prize, in a Chicago and Vicinity Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago; the Augustus Peabody Prize, in an American Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago; Honorable Mention in an International Lithograph Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago; the Frank G. Logan Medal (Purchase), in a Chicago and Vicinity Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago; Fourth and Sixth purchase prizes at a Chicago Galleries Association Semi-Annual Exhibition, and the Silver Medal at an Annual Exhibition of the Chicago Society of Artists.
My concern is with the use of means to create a vital reality. My subject matter is evident. An explanation should not be necessary to complete a painting. My titles are for cataloging and are better if obvious. My initial impulse is due to realities or, more often, reminiscence of reality; but I am not concerned with realities as they exist in nature but as they grow in my picture by the demands of form (personal design). The better I sense the demands of form and the more vehemently I answer them and the less I allow my knowledge of natural forms to interfere, the more successful I am. My studies in purely abstract design are for the purpose of teaching myself to sense the demands of form. They may have decorative charm, but are not an expression of my interest in life. An easel painting is of no more use than music; if art, it is a living thing and exists to make life nobler and not merely to decorate rooms. Distortion is necessary in order to force the expression, but distortion for the sake of distortion weakens the expression, whether the distortion is in color or in line or has been effected by any other means. I am not interested in an attempt to make my art Chicagoan, American or modern; nor in making contributions to society or to a dealer's profit; however, if I should incidentally do so, I should not be displeased. My art is typical of Chicago only in so far as my experience of life is typical of Chicago. I approve of prizes from the standpoint that they not only provide a means to continue working but a handicap to overcome. A large number of artists have influenced my work from the start, but I do not consider these influences as detrimental because I have not aped their mannerisms but have accepted technical truths that they have shown me. Criticism has had the same effect; I hope I am not unteachable. Davenport Griffen.