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William R. Davis

Over the years, Davis has painted most of the Cape’s local sailboats, including Beetle Cats, Wianno Seniors and Juniors, and Cotuit Skiffs. But he is more well-known for his paintings of larger boats such as schooners and clippers in a 19th-century style. “They have a slightly nostalgic feel,” he says. “I don’t do much of the modern fiberglass boats; I call them Clorox bottles.” Most of Davis’ work is on panel, and many of his pieces are as small as 5 x 7 inches. All of his frames are handmade in Central Falls, Rhode Island, at Motyka Frames, and gilded in gold leaf. 

Fishermen Off Thacher Island • 6″ x 8″ • Oil

Davis was also a pioneer online. He recalls, “I jumped on the web in the 1990’s, and there was no competition there yet. The Cape Cod papers had  articles about my site, and I was getting calls from all over the world. I sold a lot of paintings that way, shipped them overseas.” Auctions have also helped Davis from a business perspective. “People who are interested in art are interested in auction records,” he explains. “They can be a very good sales tool; something that I learned in London was that prices can go way over retail.”

Over the past year, Bill Davis has stayed busy, and he has been experimenting with new techniques, painting on dark gray panels, focusing on nocturns. “Coming from dark to light lets me go darker,” he explains, “and the light jumps out of the painting.” While many of his pieces are smaller, one recent painting of Brant Point Light measures 15” x 30”. “I’ve been doing a whole series on lighthouses,” he says. “People think the subject is overdone, but I do them in my own way. For a career in art, it’s been a lot of fun.”

West Chop Light, Circa 1830 • 10″ x 8″ • Oil

See more of William R. Davis’ work at

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