William Davis was born in Somerville, Massachusetts and grew up on Cape Cod. He is a self-taught artist who spent the early part of his career as an art dealer and collector of 19th century American works. Inspired by the artists he was collecting, he began painting full time and in 1983 he had his first show and began exhibiting his work in solo and group shows across the country. From the start, Davis’ work reflected his deep admiration for and influence by the 19th century American Luminists James Bard, Martin Johnson Heade, Antonio Jacobsen and Fitz Hugh Lane. He continues to use many of the techniques traditionally used by these painters to realize his personal vision. In 1987, Davis made history with the first one-person show ever mounted at the prestigious Mystic Maritime Gallery in Mystic, Connecticut. Over the course of his career Davis became enamoured of plein air painting, partly influenced by his friendship with artists Joseph McGurl and Donald Demers with whom he painted in various New England locations.
Since that time, Davis has enjoyed a national reputation as a preeminent contemporary marine artist. His work has been featured in books and in well-regarded publications, and he is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Davis continues to be inspired by the natural beauty of his native Cape Cod’s pristine coastlines, and by the forests and mountains of northern New England.
In a tribute to Martin Johnson Heade he wrote for the magazine American Artist, Davis refers to sunset as “the hour when night usurps day,” observing that this is the “best time of day for painters to capture the ‘inner state’ of a landscape” and represents “an unequaled opportunity to sensitize the eye to the delicate mysteries of light and shadow.”