History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture (Major)

W. Bowdoin Davis, Jr., Professor Emeritus

Prof. Davis taught at Maryland Institute College of Art from 1963 until 2003. He created the Art History Department early in his career and developed a challenging curriculum especially geared to student artists.

His undergraduate degree is from Brown University and his Masters in Art History was obtained at Indiana University in 1964. In 2004 he was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from MICA. Awards include MICA Trustees Grant for Excellence in Teaching, 1987, and Mellon Foundation Grant, 1985. In 1987 he began researching the work of Marcel Duchamp and his book, Duchamp: Domestic Patterns, Covers, and Threads was published in 2002 by Midmarch Arts Press in New York.

Bowdoin Davis's book on Marcel Duchamp seeks to disrupt the convention that Duchamp was beyond the realm of tradition in his proffering of readymade objects as art; the industrial revolution had already gone too far by the beginning of the twentieth century for Duchamp's Readymades not to disrupt the conventional spaces which served to house art. His work put us on notice that our art spaces were no longer immune from the disruptions which industrial commerce had already visited upon the nations of the world. The everyday object, in the form of objects such as a men's urinal, a bicycle wheel, or a snow-shovel, would form part of Duchamp's assault upon traditional art-spaces; in the process, his choices elevated the common mass-produced object to the level of the art object.

However, what makes this book, Duchamp: Domestic Patterns, Covers, and Threads unique, is the author's focus upon some patterns of working which connect his early work from Duchamp's Munich trip in 1912 up through his last piece installed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Davis connects a series of Duchamp's pieces utilizing thread, string, or fabric, with the traditions of fashioning clothing and creating cover, from Munich to the end of Duchamp's life, and in the process, he brings Duchamp in line with other artistic traditions. Duchamp has finally been contextualized within the varied approaches to art that evolved in the twentieth century.

Dr. Davis received an honorary doctorate from MICA in 2004 and is currently Professor Emeritus. In 2008 he completed a book, also published by Midmarch Arts Press, but this time his focus was upon the Dada/Surrealist artist, Max Ernst. This book, Max Ernst's Lines from a Marriage, examines the relationship between certain titles and comments in some of Ernst's pieces done during his first marriage, and attitudes expressed by his first wife, Louise Straus-Ernst, in her memoirs. It confirms a view of a mutual awareness that the marriage was disintegrating before their eyes.


2004 | DHL - (Honorary) MICA

1963 | MA - Indiana University

1959 | AB - Brown University