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Danville museum showcasing nearly 60 works of art by Danville's Carson Davenport

Danville museum showcasing nearly 60 works of art by Danville's Carson Davenport

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Carson Davenport

Danville’s Carson Davenport painted this oil on canvas untitled work — known as Chincoteague — in 1964.

Carson Davenport

This self-portrait of Carson Davenport was painted circa 1930-40.

The Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History will be exhibiting nearly 60 works — many of which have never been displayed publicly — by Carson Davenport from its collection.

The works span 50 years of Davenport’s career and represent his range from realist portraiture to abstract cubist landscapes. Pieces on display will include oil paintings, watercolors, etchings, woodblocks and drawings.

The museum is presenting the show “Carson Davenport Retrospective 2021” in conjunction with the Smithsonian’s exhibition, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” at 24 Reid St. in Chatham through Nov. 21.

Davenport’s 1938 mural Harvest Season in Southern can also be seen nearby in the Chatham Main Street Post Office. The museum’s collection features several holiday cards which became collectibles for friends of Davenport, three WPA mural studies and a self-portrait of the private artist.

“I am not a public speaker,” Davenport is often quoted as saying. “I just prefer to come quietly and leave my work for people to see, and hope they enjoy them.”

A native of Danville, Davenport was an artist of national reputation and an art educator. Born on Feb. 14, 1908, Davenport attended Danville Public Schools and studied art for a year under Clara Lee Cousins at Stratford College in Danville.

He also studied at The Corcoran School in Washington, Grand Central School of Art in New York, the New York School of Fine & Applied Art, The John Ringling School in Sarasota, Florida, and The Eastport Summer Art Colony. His works have been exhibited widely. He is represented in numerous public and private collections throughout the country including the White House Collection, Knoedler Galleries of New York, the Virginia Museum and Valentine Museum in Richmond.

Carson Davenport

This 1934 etching of an untitled landscape was done by Danville's Carson Davenport.

During the Depression, he participated in the Public Works Art Project. In 1936, Davenport was commissioned to illustrate the industries of Virginia by the United States Treasury Department. He was commissioned by the United States Postal Service to paint murals in Chatham and Greensboro, Georgia. In 1937, Davenport became the director of The WPA Art School and Gallery at Big Stone Gap.

Davenport opened a summer art school at Chincoteague Island off the eastern shore of Virginia where he enjoyed painting the wild ponies and marine landscapes. He described his unique style as an attempt to “stimulate the brilliance of the color of mosaic, as Roualt was influenced by the brilliance of the colors of stained glass.”

Carson Davenport

This undated multi-color woodblock by Carson Davenport is called Christmas Card (Noel).

Davenport was chair of the Averett College Art Department from 1943 until his retirement in 1969. He died on Sept. 28, 1972. Many of the works acquired by the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History was gifted to the museum from personal, private collections or purchased at auctions in the early 1980s. A few of the pieces were gifted through the Stratford collection.

This Carson Davenport mural mounted in the Chatham Post Office is one of 1400 murals produced by 850 New Deal artists during the Great Depression. This mural was completed in 1935 under the auspices of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts. Davenport’s work in the Federal Art Projects during the Great Depression brought him considerable national acclaim.

Exhibit hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 434-793-5644.


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