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Stuart Davis

Owh! in San Paõ


Stuart Davis, Owh! in San Paõ, 1951  52.2
Stuart Davis, Owh! in San Paõ, 1951. Oil on canvas, 52 1/4 × 41 3/4 in. (132.7 × 106 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  52.2 For Teachers
Art © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

about this work

The quintessential painter of the modern urban scene, Stuart Davis found inspiration in billboards, signs, storefronts, and jazz rhythms. Translating developments in vanguard European art into an American vernacular, he also anticipated the pictorial concerns of Pop art, especially its appropriation of imagery from consumer culture. Owh! In San Paõ, a frenetic mix of everyday objects, words, and chromatic energy, was based on a painting of a coffeepot Davis made twenty years earlier. In this later variation, he retained the original subject, reducing the coffeepot to a cylinder, and added the words “else,” “used to be,” and “now,” referring perhaps to the temporal gap between the two pictures. The title of this painting was originally Motel, and Davis had planned to exhibit it at the 1951 Biennial in São Paolo, Brazil. When it was rejected by the exhibition’s organizers, he humorously renamed the work Owh! In San Paõ.


American Legends Audio guide stop for Stuart Davis, Owh! In San Pao, 1951

Audio guide stop for Stuart Davis, Owh! In San Paõ, 1951

look closer

What words would you use to describe this painting?

Describe the different types of lines, shapes, and patterns you can see in this painting.

What words do you see?

The artist titled this painting Owh! in San Paõ. Say ‘Owh!’ out loud–what does that sound like?

What other sounds would you use to describe this painting?



Stuart Davis, Owh! in San Paõ, 1951  52.2 For Teachers

Stuart Davis (1894–1964) once described this painting by saying “Owh! in San Pao has the general character of a still life, seen in a blasting international mood. Instead of a utensil, we see an event.” 1 The utensil that Davis was referring was a coffee pot. Ask students what they think this quotation means in relation to what they see.

Ask students to describe other everyday objects they see in this painting. Ask them to consider how Davis’s choice of colors, lines, shapes, patterns, and words transformed the still life painting into “an event?” How do the various elements come together to convey a “blasting international mood?”

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