Francis Davison 1919-1984

Davison, born 1919 in London, studied at Cambridge, where he read English and anthropology. He moved to St Ives in 1946 at the suggestion of his friend Patrick Heron. There he met artist Margaret Mellis (who was recently separated from fellow artist Adrian Stokes). Davison and Mellis moved to the south of France before settling in Suffolk in 1950. The landscape paintings of this time betray the impact of Cornwall in their economy of colour and descriptive elements and are close to the work of William Scott and Roger Hilton. By 1952 Davison had begun to work in collage.

Davison asked that no biographical information be included in the catalogue of his Hayward Gallery exhibition in 1983. He also excluded dates and titles from all of the collages on show. Consequently, the focus remained fixed on the works themselves with few external clues to the artist’s intentions. This deliberate act by Davison insisted that the viewers bring their own interpretations to the compositions.

The paper is more often torn, than cut, which creates movement and a feeling of freedom in the compositions (visualise any of the collages with perfectly smooth, regular edges around each of the shapes and all the life would be removed). Davison was happy to limit himself to the available paper colours and worked within that palette. In comparison, painters have infinite choices for colour variations and combinations.