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Christie's to auction Stuart Davis' study for Drake mural 'Allée'

November 5, 2007
photo of
"Allée" graces the upper gallery of Olmsted Center.

A study for the "Allée" mural Stuart Davis designed for Drake's Hubbell Dining Hall will be offered by Christie's during a Nov. 29 auction of "Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture" in New York City's Rockefeller Plaza.

The "Scale Study #1 for 'Allée'" gouache on photostat (8.25 x 35 inches) is expected to sell for $250,000 to $350,000.

The study is signed "Stuart Davis" twice and is inscribed with title "Drake U. -Main Dining Hall/Des Moines, Iowa" (on the backing affixed to the reverse).

Davis, who was born in 1892 and died in 1964, made a series of four gouache on photostat studies for "Allée," which was originally commissioned by the Gardener and Florence Cowles Foundation for the Eero Saarinen-designed Hubbell Dining Hall at Drake.

The mural, which measures 8 by 33 feet, remained in its original location until 1981, when it was moved to the upper gallery of Olmsted Center.

Davis considered "Scale Study #1 for 'Allée'" the most important of the color studies, and wrote of the work in his Jan. 1, 1955 calendar entry, "The best one and quite good." (A. Boyajian and M. Rutkowski, eds., "Stuart Davis: A Catalogue Raisonné," vol. II, New Haven, Conn., 2007, p. 683)

According to Ani Boyajian, "Although completed third in the series, Davis must have assigned '#1' in this work's title to reflect the fact that this was the first of the color scale studies on Photostat that arrived at the colors and composition used in the final mural.

The "Allée" commission marked Davis' return to mural painting after a 15-year hiatus.

He wrote of the finished work: "Allée is a French word meaning an alley or long vista. It is a long painting. Its length over-powered my studio and made a deep impression on my mind. Also, there is another French word with the same sound which means 'go.' I like this association. I like the variety, the animation, the vigorous spirit which is part of college life. This feeling of energy and vigor was in my mind during the painting of the mural."

More information on the study and the auction is available on the Christie's Web site.