A marine artist of exceptional talents, Julian O. Davidson is best known for his commissioned paintings of American naval engagements. He also authored and illustrated childrens’ books, America’s cup races for magazines and was a champion rower. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Nyack Rowing Association. His career shortened by a sudden illness, combined with the loss of some known works, makes original art by Davidson a rare commodity today.
Born to family of noticeable wealth and artistic inclinations, and after a military school education and a brief apprenticeship in his father’s engineering firm, he struck out on his own at 17. He literally “ran away to sea” as he would later call it. Joining the crew of the pacific mail steamship ARIZONA, bound for the orient by way of the Mediterranean sea, he was onboard when she became the first American vessel to travel the Suez Canal. Davidson filled sketch books with the varied scenes he observed on his world travels, which aided him in several future artistic ventures.
Back home in New York, he became the first pupil of Mauritz F.H. de Haas, in 1872. Under de Haas’s tutelage, Davidson associated with Winslow Homer. Frederic Church, William Bradford, Albert Bierstadt and Sanford R. Gifford at the famous tenth street studio that served as the 19th century heart of the New York art world. His artistic accomplishments include several large scale works, including a 20 x 7 foot painting of the MACEDONIAN’s capture by UNITED STATES that became part of the decor of New York’s plaza hotel. But when working for himself, Davidson revisited his favorite subject, the beauty of ships under sail.