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Sylvia Davis (1919-2010)
Paruda 1940
oil on board
61.5 x 44 cm
Gift of Howard Hinton 1941

 

Born 1919, Orange. Died 2010, West Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

Sylvia Davis studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Art from the age of 15 under William Lister Lister and H.A. Hanke. In 1939, she accompanied her father, Leslie James Davis, on a gold-mining expedition to Guadalcanal. She completed 80 works of the Solomon Island natives and surrounding jungle landscapes prior to the outbreak of World War II.

She held her first solo exhibition at the age of 21, in May 1941. The art critic of the Sydney Morning Herald compared her to artist Mary Edwards, writing that “her work shows a remarkable assurance for so young a painter, and a more than usual technical ability”. The exhibition of 84 works, Australian landscapes and paintings of life in the Solomon Islands, held at Anthony Hordern's Sydney Gallery, is likely where Howard Hinton purchased this work (one of two in the Hinton Collection). This head and shoulders study of a Chief's Son, named Paruda, shows a vibrant green background which emphasises the subject's dark skin. The bead necklace on his bare chest, and the feathered headdress provide exotic detail. His staring gaze shows pride.

Davis was a Finalist in the Archibald Prize for portraiture for four consecutive years 1942-1945. She married an American soldier, Tony Patricelli, at the end of the war and moved to the United States as an American war bride. She produced numerous commissioned portraits of notable citizens including Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt and General Douglas MacArthur. She is also known by her married name Sylvia Davis-Patricelli.