For nearly forty years Davis studied the clouds which floated across the Long Island Sound around his home in Mystic. This experience inspired the series of cloud paintings for which he is best known today. In And Southward Dreams the Sea Davis has tried to convey the lightness and buoyancy of these mercurial beings, drifting effortlessly across a crystalline summer sky. He has observed the effects of sunlight as it shines through the clouds’ billowy forms, creating subtle gray-violet and blue shadows on their underbellies. To capture these elusive qualities, Davis was forced to repaint the sky many times. “I go through positive agonies,” he said, “in arranging my cloud masses—and often struggle days and weeks futilely because the uplift, moving quality which is to me of prime importance, will not come.” Davis also used a severely reduced composition and a summarily treated landscape to focus the viewer’s attention upon the counterpoint between static earth below and turbulent sky above. Thomas Colville observed: “This essential simplicity in which understatement is allied with a poetry of the commonplace, is the key to understanding both the man and his art.” The bright, semi-Impressionist palette of this work is representative of the artist’s paintings after he abandoned the dark, Barbizon-inspired tonality of his manner of the 1880s. Frances Davis, the artist’s second wife, noted that after he returned from France, “there was a distinct tendency toward the Impressionist school, made natural by the greater sense of light and air in this New England climate.” Also characteristic is the introduction of a greater feeling of openness, created largely by an elongated picture format and a long horizon placed near the bottom of the picture. -William Robinson
Signed LL: "C H Davis"; on verso stretcher in pencil, "Springtime"