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Something on the Eight Ball

Stuart Davis, American, 1892 - 1964


Oil on canvas

56 × 45 inches (142.2 × 114.3 cm)

© Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor (Dorrance Galleries)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Adele Haas Turner and Beatrice Pastorius Turner Memorial Fund, 1954

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The intense colors and floating abstract shapes of this jubilant late work seem to jump off the wall with the visual punch of an advertising billboard. Davis's compositions became increasingly flattened and simplified in the 1950s, reflecting an awareness of recent developments in abstract painting. The artist explained the title of this work in a 1954 letter to Henry Clifford, curator of paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art: "Something on the Eight Ball is a switch on the usual phrase 'behind the eight ball.' I used it without knowledge of hearing it before in a conversation with some jazz musicians [and] it got a laugh, causing me to remember it."

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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