The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 11 (February 1, 1938)
Stanley Davis Artist and Idealist
A Few Impressions.
Mr. Stanley Davis, Supervising Artist of the New Zealand Railways Outdoor Advertising Branch, died suddenly on 10th January at Tauranga, where he was on holiday. His brilliant life ended in mid-career, for he was only in his forty-sixth year.
He was born in Gloucester, England. After some years of zealous study of art in London he completed his training in Paris. After active service in the Great War, he came to New Zealand, and was engaged by the Railways Advertising Branch in 1922. Here he put a new original impress on commercial art, and quickly won his way to the front. His bold, striking treatment of many subjects has been highly praised by well-qualified critics of the British Empire and America. His designs have also been importantly helpful in successful campaigns of the Railways Publicity Branch.
* * *
Stanley Davis rests on the hill of Taita, in the peaceful green valley of the Hutt River, where he wished to be when the time came for the final farewell. A pohutukawa tree will rise as a living monument by his grave, but his best memorials are his friends, for he built himself into their hearts. The sudden ending of a bright life left them with more than a sense of loss; rather with a feeling of grievance against the scheme of things where “hearts as dry as summer dust burn to the socket.”
Never have I seen a more heart-touching group of grief than the young comrades (who were pall-bearers) as they stood with bowed heads by the open grave. It was the deep sorrow of youth at parting from a loved one, whose soulful personality had grown in their hearts as a flower in a favourable garden. They were as stricken as branches wrenched from a tree.
A chant came from one of Stanley's well-loved “little people,” a lark high up in the sunny blue sky, a salute of song while the clergyman spoke the last words of farewell.
Stanley Davis was a real artist in the widest and deepest sense of that much-misused word, art. He had a power of expression and interpretation far beyond the ordinary range of skilled technique with pen, pencil or brush. He had a sense of the eternal principles of art which enriches life. He had the right insight and inspired outlook. He could see into the heart of things.
His touch of pen or brush had strength and sureness—quickness with quality. To see him at a task was to see a master craftsman, easily able to achieve his purpose. Yet he was very modest and sensitive. He could be troubled by stupid blurts of critics, very limited in understanding and very clouded in vision. To him one could well apply the couplet of wise old Dr. Johnson:
Fate never wounds more deep the generous heart
Than when a blockhead's malice points the dart.
To New Zealanders Stanley Davis is best known by his posters, some of which are worthy of the walls of any art gallery in any country, but one of his main specialties was portrait-painting. A remarkable specimen of his skill is the big oil-painting of the official group and some of the public at the opening of the electrified Lyttelton—Christchurch railway.
Friend of Humanity.
Stanley Davis yearned to see the world happy. He had the Wordsworthian ideal of “joy in widest commonalty spread.” His was not a vague aspiration, not a dreamy hoping for better things. His quick, agile mind had constructive thoughts for improving the average standard of living.
One can truly say of him: “Once met, always met.” He had a radiant personality which left a good impress even on a casual acquaintance. I have seen him in moods which reminded me of Wordsworth's lines:—
… That blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
Until—the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended — we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul,
The body that was called Stanley Davis stays on the Taita hill, but the spirit of Stanley lives on with his friends.
Tribute of the General Manager.
Here is the tribute of Mr. G. H. Mackley, General Manager of Railways:—
“In the untimely death of Stanley Davis, the Railways Department has lost an officer who was as faithful as he was efficient. Indeed, the passing of such a gifted artist is a loss to the whole country. He was remarkable for his keen cheerful zest in his tasks. He never looked upon his daily round of duty as one of mere routine. He had an untiring eagerness to put distinctiveness into ordinary things. He never swerved from his conscientious spirit of service. Truly he was a man who lived for his work. I feel that my deep regret at his death is shared by the whole of the railway service. Our heartfelt sympathy is given to Mrs. Davis and relatives.”