DAVISON, Francis Douglas

1919 - 1984

Francis Davison

Francis Douglas Davison was born in London on 9 June 1919, one of the four adopted children of George Davison (19 September 1854–26 December 1930), who was born in Lowestoft, Suffolk and made his fortune as a managing director of Eastman Kodak, and his first wife Joan. He lived with them in Cannes, until he returned to England in 1932, to attend St George’s boarding school in Essex, where he met Patrick Heron, who was to become a lifelong friend. He studied at Cambridge where he read English and anthropology and was a conscientious objector during the Second World War. He married at All Saints, Knightsbridge in 1944, 19-year-old Brenda Trevor Roberts, but this was a short-lived marriage. Artist Margaret Mellis who in 1946, divorced fellow artist Adrian Stokes (1902-1972), when Adrian left their home at Carbis Bay, Cornwall, when Margaret invited Patrick Heron and his wife Delia to stay with her and they in turn in 1946 invited their recently divorced friend, Francis Davison to join them in Cornwall when Davison turned to painting. Francis and Margaret, struck up a friendship, married in Nice in 1948 and were rarely separated thereafter. The couple spent three years at Davison’s dilapidated chateau on the Cap d’Antibes in the South of France before returning to England and in 1950, settling at Church Farm Cottage, Syleham, Suffolk, where they devoted themselves to farming, with the egg market being their main source of income in the following years, supplemented by intermittent sales of their work. His landscape paintings of this time betray the impact of Cornwall in their economy of colour and descriptive elements. In 1952, Davison gave up painting and started making collages, initially using a stark palette of browns and greys, dictated by the materials that he had to hand and never returned to the brush again. His first exhibition was at Roland Browse & Delbanco in 1955 at which nothing sold. In 1975, Davison and Mellis moved from Syleham to Walberswick and, towards the end of this decade, Davison started to receive wider recognition for his work having a one-man show at the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield in 1981, and another one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford in 1982. Davison was also included in several group shows, and his works have been exhibited regularly at the Redfern Gallery, London, which held a retrospective of his collages in 1986. When he exhibited at the Hayward Gallery in 1983, he excluded dates and titles from all the collages on show and requested that no biographical information be included in the catalogue. Davison was happy to limit himself to the available paper colours and worked within that palette. Francis Douglas Davison died at Walberswick in 1984, aged 65.

Works by This Artist