Gene Davis was born in 1920 in Washington, D.C., where he lived most of his life. After starting a career as a sportswriter and later becoming a political journalist in the 1940s; Davis began to paint in 1949. His first art studio was his apartment on Scott Circle and later he worked out of a studio on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Davis’s first solo exhibition of drawings was at the Dupont Theatre Gallery in 1952 and his first exhibition of paintings was at Catholic University in 1953. Though he worked in a variety of media and styles, Davis is best known for his acrylic paintings mostly on canvas of colorful vertical stripes, which he began to paint in 1958.
In 1965, he participated in the “Washington Color Painters” exhibition at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art in Washington, D.C., which traveled around the U.S. and launched the recognition of the Washington Color School as a regional movement in which Davis was a central figure.
Davis began teaching in 1966 at the Corcoran School of Art, where he became a permanent member of the faculty. In 1974, Davis was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. In 1984, he was appointed the commissioner of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
His work may be found in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York, NY; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA.
Gene Davis died in April of 1985 in Washington, D.C.