Davies was briefly captivated by the fragmented forms and transparent planes of cubism. Many of his admirers preferred his depictions of ethereal maidens in imaginary landscapes; one pronounced these dancing harlequinade figures “garish as a tartan, and as stimulating.” Like many of his contemporaries, Davies was a great appreciator of the “gesture” of the dance, ranging from the interpretations of Isadora Duncan and the fiery spirit of the Duncan Girls, who formed a popular group at the time, to the subtle movements of Ruth St. Denis, who was famous for her sensuous performances.
This painting was part of a mural project conceived by artists Walt Kuhn (1880–1949), Arthur Davies, and Maurice Prendergast in 1914. The three painters executed a set of four large canvases, which they exhibited in the spring of 1915 in New York City. John Quinn, one of America’s foremost collectors of European avant-garde art and a great admirer of the work of these Americans, purchased all four: Prendergast’s Promenade (DIA acc. no. 27.159) and its companion piece, Picnic (now in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh); Kuhn’s Man and Sea Beach (now lost); and this work.