1937: Harry A. Davis Jr. and the Road to Rome

Formal Portrait of Harry A. Davis Jr.

Formal Portrait of Harry A. Davis Jr. circa 1938

Harry A. Davis, Jr. was born in Hillsboro, Indiana on May 21, 1914 and grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana. He entered the Herron School of Art in 1933 and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1938. That same year he won the Prix de Rome in Painting, an award that allowed him to study at the American Academy in Rome from 1938-1940. During those years he made trips throughout Italy and Greece as well as visiting Istanbul and Egypt.

In 1942 Davis enlisted in the U.S. Army. His military assignments eventually took him back to Italy, and he was able to revisit many of the places that he had seen a few years before.

Using Davis’s correspondence, a diary he kept as a student in Rome, his memoir about his military experience, and photographs, this exhibit looks at how the years he spent in Italy as a student and as a soldier influenced his development as an artist. His writings also reflect the reactions of a young man from Indiana having his first encounters with the Mediterranean World.

Harvest Dinner

A photograph of the painting Harvest Dinner, which won Davis the Prix de Rome fellowship in painting in 1938. Davis based the painting on the harvest dinners he had seen growing up rural Indiana.

Harry A. Davis Jr. and Donald Mattison

Donald Mattison and Harry Davis in 1938

Donald Mattison (left) and Harry Davis in 1938. Mattison became director of the Herron School of Art in 1933. One of his early goals was to prepare his students to compete for major art awards, especially the Prix de Rome (which Mattison had won in 1928) and the Chaloner Paris Prize. His efforts paid off; Clifford Jones (1937), Harry Davis (1938), Robert Pippinger (1939), and Loren Fisher (1940) won the Prix de Rome (although the war in Europe led Fisher to study in Mexico) and Robert Weaver won the Chaloner Paris Prize in 1937.

Certificate of Completion of Four Year Program in Fine Arts Painting

1937 Certificate

1937: Harry A. Davis Jr. and the Road to Rome