Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Floyd MacMillan Davis  (1896 - 1966)

or: Not a Famous Artist

“Like every illustrator who is worth his salt, his pictures are painted with imagination and honesty.  He manages to put excitement into them and impact and a differentness born of his own originality.  His style and approach are so original that they encourage imitators, and at the same time make the task of imitators insuperably difficult.  Davis has such a feeling for characterization that none of the people he draws are ordinary, and he is willing to lavish loving care upon a job and put all into it he feels it needs regardless of time and effort.” ~ Ernest W. Watson**

Gladys Rockmore Davis wife of America's No. 1 Illustrator Floyd Davis ~ from LIFE Apr 19, 1943

Mr. Floyd Davis. Distinguished Artist-Correspondent


  1. So many people that I respect think Floyd Davis was a truly great illustrator. I have pushed back, saying that he seems to me to have the loose, cartoony style of Dorne but without the draftsmanship ability. They tell me that I just don't understand Davis and that I need to invest more time in understanding him.

    One of these days I will do that, but in the meantime can I just say that Davis seems to have done Orson Welles a great favor in drawing his waistline for the Citizen Kane poster. (Those were the days of great copywriters; who invented the slogan, "It's Terrific!"?)

    Also, did your research turn up anything about Mrs. Davis' astonishing X ray eyes?

    1. No, you are correct. It is Dorne's constructive approach to drawing, understanding the volume of a form, drawing through, and then "finishing" mindful of the underlying structure, that sets the bulk of his work apart from Davis'.

      (If for no other reason) One should study Davis to better understand the work of Dorne and Fawcett. Before my eye was in tune to each of their various styles, I would, at first glance, mistake a Davis for one or the other. From 1926~1940 styles and clients overlap. Was Davis the Top of their marketplace? (ink wash drawings for advertising)

      Orson Welles ~ That's not Charles Boyer

      "who invented the slogan, "It's Terrific!"?" ~ Aldous Huxley.

      Mrs. Davis' astonishing X ray eyes ~ She was a Mutant‽ …like Fawcett, she did a few Knox Hat ads circa 1929.

  2. Well, Walt Reed wrote, "Floyd Davis was one of the great figures of American illustration," and gave him two pages in The Illustrator in America when artists such as Frazetta and Mark English and Robert Weaver were given a single page. Under achievers such as Milton Glaser, Bob Heindel and Jack Davis were given half a page. Yet, Walt Reed is never wrong.

    1. Dorne is the superior draughtsman, Davis' high society images of some style, but most of his other work is a bit "off" …notwithstanding Davis' career, his name and his art are rather obscure* …one should ask, "Why"? Was the bulk of his work "mere illustration"? Else why no post on illustrationart? ~ next post, more Davis.

      *well I seldom hear it mentioned

  3. I rarely hear it mentioned either, but when I do, it's by the right people.