Jo Davidson stands as one of America’s most prodigious academic portrait sculptors of presidents around the world. He is renowned for having done the likeness of famous people such as Gertrude Stein and Charlie Chaplin, industrialists such as Andrew Mellon and important figures such as Walt Whitman. He is also noted for his relationship to Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney who was a close friend and patron of his work.
Grace Sarka was the wife of artist and illustrator Charles Nicolas Sarka. They married around 1910 and were married for fifty years until his death in 1960. Sarka and Davidson were friends and perhaps they first met during the 1913 Armory Show in New York. The Sarkas were friends with Walt Kuhn and it is noted that Davidson exhibited and helped organize the exhibition due to his friendship with Kuhn as well.
This marvelous and intimate depiction of Grace Sarka demonstrates the immediacy and great facile talent Davidson possessed in capturing his sitter. It is noted that he would often model a head or figure in one sitting. Early on he developed a love for working in clay and terra cotta and this work demonstrates his passion for this medium. The work is endearing and personal and he does a remarkable job of delineating Grace’s personality and features in rough and quick terms. This was possibly a gift from Davidson to Grace or Charles and explains why he did not sign it. Davidson also modeled a head of Charles Sarka that was held in the same collection.
Works such as this are for collector’s who understand and enjoy the preliminary stages of sculpture before they are cast in bronze. It is widely accepted that it is in this stage that the immediacy of the sculptors hand is felt and that a work can be at its most expressive.
Ellen Jones, New York, inherited from her husband
Descended in family from husband’s great aunt and uncle, Charles and Grace Sarka
Gift or purchased from Davidson to Charles and Grace Sarka