When Ready-to-Wear was painted in 1955, one of the prevailing artistic styles was Abstract Expressionism. And at first glance, it's easy to see how this painting might be grouped with the works of Pollock or Rothko. But as you look a little closer and learn more about Stuart Davis's intentions, you'll begin to recognize his distinctive modernist style and understand how this painting fit into his artistic agenda of portraying real life in modern America and reflecting the everyday experience.
The title refers to ready-to-wear clothing, a phrase that was introduced in a Montgomery Ward catalogue in 1895 and referred to clothing that was made in factories in standard sizes, as opposed to clothing that was tailored specifically for the wearer. The development of ready-to-wear made store-bought clothing imminently more accessible.
Knowing his inspiration, you can begin to read the the different shapes of color as scraps of fabric on a black table. In the top right, you'll see an 'X' shape that perhaps indicates a pair of scissors. The vibrancy of the colors also contribute to a sense of movement that might represent the energy of the burgeoning fashion industry.
The Art Institute acquired this painting in 1956, just a year after it was painted, from Davis's New York dealer. At the time, Art Institute curator Katharine Kuh wrote about her excitement in adding it to the museum's collection:
[Director] Dan Rich is crazy about the picture and, as you know only too well, I am too. Naturally, we have to put it through our Committee meeting but I foresee only delight on their part.
If you feel similarly, you can vote for this painting on Art Everywhere and it could be chosen to be a part of the largest outdoor art exhibition ever. Click here before May 7 to vote.
Image Credit: Stuart Davis. Ready-to-Wear, 1955. Restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sigmund W. Kunstadter; Goodman Endowment.
4 hours 51 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem
Two major figures in American art and literature aim to make the black experience visible in postwar America.
Closing August 28—http://bit.ly/2aQrnYd
9 hours 20 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago It is believed Van Dyck never intended for the early stages of his etchings to be circulated and was surprised by their immediate popularity in the art market. Finding success at a time when artists didn’t usually show works in progress, these “unfinished” prints helped set the stage for the more recent popularity of works that reveal the creative process. See the prints that altered conventions in Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print—closing August 7.
1 day 4 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT 1983: The museum held an exhibition for the collection of Jalane and Richard Davidson, Chicago collectors of contemporary American realist drawings. Acknowledged at the time for collecting against prevailing art world trends, they amassed a comprehensive collection of work spanning the careers of both well-known artists—like Jack Beal, pictured here with Jalane herself and a portrait he made of her—and lesser-known Midwestern artists. The entire Davidson collection was bequeathed to the museum and saw another exhibition devoted to it in 1999.