Catalogue Excerpt: Artists Look at Weston
Henry Davenport was a well-respected Boston artist and art educator. Born in
Brookline, Davenport enjoyed a privileged upbringing. He attended the Roxbury Latin School,
Volkmann's School in Boston, Noble and Greenough in Dedham, and Harvard University. After graduating
from Harvard in 1904, he traveled to Paris to study architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where
he received a diploma in 1913. Returning to Boston in 1914, he continued his studies under Charles W.
Hawthorne and George Elmer Browne at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown. Founded by Hawthorne
in 1900, the Cape Cod School was one of the nation's leading art schools, attracting some of the most
talented art instructors and students in the country. In 1916 Davenport established the Clouet School
of Art in Paris, where he taught for ten years. He continued his teaching career at the Yale School
of Fine Arts and Harvard University. In 1918, he had his first one-man show at the Copley Gallery in
Boston, where his portraits and scenes of Cape Cod received favorable reviews. He continued to show
his work on Newbury Street at the Doll and Richards Gallery in the 1950s and 1960s.
Professor Davenport, as he was often called, moved to Weston in 1936. He captured the town's local scenes in numerous paintings and shared his enthusiasm for art by offering adult art classes in his Weston home at 695 Boston Post Road. Early in the 1940s, Davenport was hired by the W.H. Nichols Company of Waltham to illustrate handbooks for machine tools, edit a company magazine, and handle public relations.
Davenport took particular interest in the Josiah Smith Tavern, one of Weston's most historic buildings. The Weston Historical Society owns three images of the tavern by this artist, created in different seasons and from different vantage points. Shown on these two pages are two pastels. In the classic fall scene, sun-dappled maples framing the east façade are cloaked in bright orange and gold leaves. Adding further local color are three figures with tri-cornered hats, walking across the porch. Davenport's winter pastel captures the brilliance of the sun as it illuminates the west façade.
The Davenport painting on the front cover of the catalogue shows the rear of the Josiah Smith Tavern opening onto a large open field, long since overgrown. The view was painted during the summer, as evidenced by the awnings and scattered beds of red blooms. The vertical format, unusual for a landscape, gives it a portrait-like feeling.
The bright winter landscape on the back cover is one of a series of twelve landscapes the artist painted for the recreation hall or canteen at the W.H. Nichols Company of Waltham. Davenport was interested in seasonal changes, and the Waltham paintings were evenly divided between spring/summer and winter/fall subjects. Wishing to offer original works of art for the machinists to look at, Davenport not only painted 12 landscapes on site but also arranged for reproductions of paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Worcester Art Museum to be hung throughout the plant. Davenport's winter landscape demonstrates how the streets of Weston were once “rolled” after a snowstorm to pack down the snow and allow passage of vehicles on runners. The emphasis of the painting is on the flat white road broken only by diagonal tree shadows. The Burgoyne Elm and Fiske Law Office occupy a secondary position in the upper left corner.
Davenport created a variation on this scene for the frontispiece drawing in Brenton H. Dickson's classic 1963 Weston memoir Once Upon a Pung. The Weston Historical Society owns the original of this drawing. In it, Davenport includes the law office and revered elm along with a pung, which was a wooden rectangular open box on runners, drawn by a single horse. Tethered to the pung is a young boy on a sled, catching a ride through town.