He grew up in an artistic environment, for his father was art director
of a Philadelphia newspaper, who had
employed Luks, Glackens, and other members of the Eight. He studied with Robert Henri 1910-13, made covers
and drawings for the social realist periodical The Masses, which was associated with the Ash-can School, and
exhibited watercolors in the Armory Show, which made an overwhelming impact on him. After a visit to Paris in
1928-29 he introduced a new note into US Cubism, basing himself on its Synthetic rather than its Analytical phase.
Using natural forms, particularly forms suggesting the characteristic environment of American life, he rearranged
them into flat poster-like patterns with precise outlines and sharply contrasting colors (House and Street, Whitney
Museum, New York, 1931).
He later went over to pure abstract patterns, into which he often introduced
lettering, suggestions of advertisements,
posters, etc. (Owh! in San Pao, Whitney Museum, 1951). The zest and dynamism of such works reflect his interest
in jazz. Davis is generally considered to be the outstanding American artist to work in a Cubist idiom. He made witty
and original use of it and created a distinctive American style, for however abstract his works became he always
claimed that every image he used had its source in observed reality: `I paint what I see in America, in other words I
paint the American Scene.'