Tabor Academy and Sippican Historical Society merge collections by American painter Cecil Clark Davis

Jul 17, 2018

Tabor Academy recently transferred 35 extremely significant oil paintings by American painter Cecil Clark Davis (1877-1955) to the Sippican Historical Society.

Founded in 1876, Tabor Academy, the school by the sea, is an independent, co-ed, boarding and day school for grades 9-12 featuring a broad-based, challenging college preparatory curriculum including the visual and performing arts and competitive athletics, as well as unique marine and naety on permanent loan.

Davis was born in Chicago in 1877.  She was primarily self-taught and started painting at age 16.  She was greatly influenced by her friend noted artist John Singer Sargent. Davis' family summered in Marion during her childhood, eventually building a house on Water Street. She continued this tradition into adulthood and was active in artistic and intellectual circles during the town’s heyday as a summer colony, also enjoying tennis and golf at the Sippican Tennis Club and the Kittansett Club. She was married in St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church to Richard Harding Davis, the famous author and war correspondent, and was a year-round resident for many years before her death in 1955. She is buried in her family’s plot in Old Landing Cemetery.

Davis accompanied her husband on many exciting war assignments, such as the Boer War in South Africa. She was introduced to and painted many famous people such as Charles Lindberg, Capt. Lord Charles Carnegie, Polar explorer Roland Amundsen, tennis champion Larsen Danish, Admiral William Sowden Sims, whose account of “The Victory at Sea” won a Pulitzer prize, the bee hunter Schuyler Smith, who was Cecil’s tennis partner, Prescott Bigelow, Contessa Maud Provanna from Rio de Janiero, and numerous others.

“During Davis’ lifetime, she loaned a collection of her paintings for display in Lillard Hall for the edification of the students, according to Tabor Academy archivist Sophie Arnfield. In her will, Davis left the paintings and contents of her studio to Tabor, including many paintings of Marion residents. While a small selection of paintings continued to hang at Tabor until this year, many have remained in storage.”

In acknowledgment of the strong connection between Cecil Clark Davis and the Town of Marion, a permanent loan of the Tabor paintings has been arranged between Tabor Academy and the Sippican Historical Society, where there is also a significant Davis collection. Through this agreement, these two local collections of Davis’s work are now joined, allowing wider access to the artworks for town residents and the general public through the Historical Society’s exhibition program. The Golden Age Room at the Historical Society is already dedicated to the display of many of Davis’s paintings and the new acquisitions may be periodically rotated in and exhibited in the downstairs galleries.

“The Sippican Historical Society hopes to display some of the larger works at the Music Hall with the permission of the Selectmen and Town Manager," Frank McNamee, President of the Sippican Historical Society said."It already has one outstanding work by Cecil Clark Davis on loan to the Music Hall which can be viewed in the Reading Room.”

He added enthusiastically, “This collaboration between Tabor Academy and the Sippican Historical Society will ensure these paintings remain a part of Marion’s history forever and will provide improved public access to this important American Painter’s work.”

The Sippican Historical Society is open to the public on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The museum and SHS are housed in the Walton Nye Ellis house, located at the corner of Main and Front Streets in Marion.