Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell
QUITE THE FIND: Francis W. Davisâ stepdaughter, Sonni Sampson, holds one of the late artistâs illustrations at his property in the Town of Fremont. Sampson found it while cleaning out his home.
A True Discovery
By Ted Waddell
LONG EDDY ÷ September 5, 2000 ö Francis W. Davis, a well-known artist who worked for many years at his Wildwood Studio located in Acidalia, may have died on April 13, 1999, but a recent development may shed new light on his life.
Davisâ wife, Blanche ãDollyä Hendrickson Davis, passed away in January. While preparing the estate located on 22 acres in the woods for sale, their executor Sonni Sampson and her husband Scott of the Finger Lakes discovered a treasure trove of his original works hidden away in compartments in Davisâ studio. Original art from his observations in the Catskills and travels out west had been tucked away behind cabinets and in drawers filled to overflowing with his artistic impressions.
ãSome of this work dates back to the 1940s when he studied in California under world-famous artists such as Norman Rockwell and other contempories of that day,ä she said.
Davisâ formal art education was completed at the Art Center School of Los Angeles.
Sonni Sampson is Francis Davisâ step-daughter, while her husband is related to the late artist as a son-in-law by marriage.
According to Sonni Sampson, her mother and stepfather were both very independent people but had incurred a large debt during their later years due to illnesses.
Recently, Sampson held a sale of Francis W. Davisâ artwork in order to raise money to help pay off their outstanding medical bills.
ãWe wanted to clear his name,ä she said.
Included in the sale was original art, pencil and charcoals, pastels and watercolors, sometimes fetching as much as $3,000. Limited editions (signed and unsigned) and a variety of commercial wildlife art (cards, notepads, mugs, tiles, glasses and prints) were available, along with photographs.
ãDavis was perhaps best known for his wildlife portraits and fishing scenes,ä said Sampson. ãHe illustrated more than a dozen books and hundreds of magazine articles and covers. He was considered an expert in the field of horse packing, and his authorative book, ÎHorse Packing in Pictures,â is still being sought by those who enjoy this form of wilderness travel.ä
Francis W. Davis was one of the original Catskill Guardians, a group of dedicated environmental protectionists who were instrumental in saving the Beaverkill and the Willowemoc from destruction during the construction of Route 17 through the watersheds.
He was a founding member of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum, and an officer in the BeaMoc Club
ãHe also quietly recorded the events of man and nature with his camera or his brush,ä recalled Sampson. ãHis work has provided both inspiration and action among conservationists and sportsmen.ä
Sonni Sampson retired in 1994 after a 22-year career as a reporter and news editor for the Finger Lakes Times out of Geneva, NY. Her husband is the outdoor writer for the Times, an author and a staff writer for four outdoor magazines.
In his forward to Davisâ book, ãThe Little Book of Outdoor Poems About Huntinâ, Fishinâ and Stuffä (published in 1997), Scott Sampson said, ãFrancis W. Davis is a man for all outdoors. A hunter, angler, naturalist, conservationist, horse packer and above all a keen observer of his surroundings, the animals and people who share the mountains, rivers and the plains.ä
Sonni Sampson took a break from preparing Wildwood Studio for the weekend sale to share a personal vignette from the life of her stepfather while he lived and worked in the hills above Long Eddy.
It seems that Francis W. Davis built several fieldstone blinds from rocks picked from stone walls on the property. One day, while he was observing nature or perhaps waiting for a twelve-pointer to cross his sights, a black bear wandered into the enclosure and sat down beside the artist.
ãWe werenât scared a bit,ä recalled Sampson. ãHe really loved nature.ä
For information about the recent sale of the artwork of Francis W. Davis, call 887-5164 or 607-869-2335.