Stuart Davis was born in Philadelphia to artistic parents. His mother was sculptor Helen Stuart Foulke, and his father, Edward Wyatt Davis, was art editor of the Philadelphia Press. Through his father, he had early association with John Sloan and Robert Henri, with whom he studied in New York City from 1910 to 1913. The Armory Show of 1912 dissuaded him from following the realist styles of Sloan and Henri, but he maintained his artistic focus on aspects of the social realism they espoused in that many of his subjects were places such as run-down hotels or apartment interiors.

Davis experimented with Cubism, collage, and total abstraction, and eventually settled on a style based on Cubism with much improvisation. In the late 1920s, he lived in Paris in Jan Matulka’s studio close to other modernists including Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, and Morris Kantor. Then he returned to New York City, in whose vicinity he spent the remainder of his career. He had a New York City studio and also a studio in Hoboken, New Jersey. From that time, his paintings reflected American experience, especially his love of jazz music, with the modernist styles he employed beginning with the Armory Show of 1913.