The Butterfly

Creation date
oil on canvas
28-1/2 x 39 in. 38 x 49 in. (framed)
Credit line
Gift of Mrs. Booth Tarkington
Accession number
Currently On View
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Urban Realism

Arthur Bowen Davies

The Butterfly, 1890s

oil on canvas

28 ½ x 29 in.

Gift of Mrs. Booth Tarkington

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Arthur B. Davies was born in Utica, New York and exhibited his talent for painting when he was sixteen.  His family moved to Chicago where he studied at the Art Institute.  He went to New York City and continued his studies at the Art Students League, where he met Robert Henri and George Luks.  As with many of the artists who would later make up the group known as The Eight, Davies began his career as an illustrator.  He discovered his distinctive style of the female nude in a landscape setting around the turn of the twentieth-century.  Symbolic and poetic, these figures were posed in a frieze-like manner against mysteriously dark backgrounds and seemed to have their roots in mythology.  In 1908, Davies joined a group of artists at an exhibition at Macbeth Gallery which established these artists as “The Eight.”  Davies became president of the Society of Independent Artists and helped organize the 1913 Armory Show, which introduced the American public to European avant-garde trends.  While Cubism had a short and minor influence on Davies, he continued to focus on the idyllic figures that were the hallmark of his style.

The dream-like quality which permeates Davies work made him the symbolist member of The Eight. The Butterfly exemplifies Davies’ preference for idyllic and imaginative paintings.  The lush application of paint and the mysterious, dramatic background, suggest his symbolism was influenced by Albert Pinkham Ryder and Ralph Blakelock. 


Royal Cortissoz. Arthur B. Davies, Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2007 (reprint).  ISBN-13: 978-1432579609