In 2017 Richard Nylander gifted to the Acton Memorial Library, in memory of his parents Barbara G. and Donald O. Nylander, a portfolio of artwork by Acton artist and librarian Arthur Fuller Davis. The portfolio contained 88 items, including 49 etchings, 12 pen and ink drawings, and 4 pencil drawings.
In 2018 the Acton Community Preservation Committee awarded the Library $10,500 from the Acton Community Preservation Fund to clean and frame a number of the works. An additional $3,000 was allotted from funds received through the Massachusetts State Aid for Public Libraries program as voted by the Acton Memorial Library Board of Trustees.
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Arthur Fuller Davis (1863-1953) was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts. His family moved to Acton when he was 12 years old, and he attended Acton schools. He studied art in Malden around 1887 with Albion H. Bicknell. He lived in New York City from 1890 to 1892 and supported himself by working as an etcher for several galleries, primarily Fischel, Adler & Schwartz and Wunderlich (now known as Kennedy Galleries). All of the etchings made by Arthur Davis were done in the early 1890s, presumably when he had access to press equipment at the galleries that sold his works. Based on his own detailed drawings, the etchings depict landscapes in Acton and also other places in Massachusetts and New Hampshire that he visited.
Davis returned to Acton in 1892 due to his parents declining health and remained in Acton the rest of his life, living at his boyhood home diagonally across from the library at 491 Main Street. On his frequent walks and bicycle trips around town, he continuously sketched and painted what he saw, creating a faithful record of the landscape as it existed more than a century ago.
Arthur Davis served as Librarian at the Acton Memorial Library from 1902 until 1945, and also as a library Trustee, from 1924 to 1952. He died in February 1953.
A number of works by Arthur Davis have been gifted to the library over the decades, including paintings, etchings, journals and sketchbooks. Former Library Director Wanda Null has been systematically documenting his work, including those in private collections, since 1975. New works continue to come to light. Most of the etchings that were part of the Nylander gift were not already represented in the library’s collection of works by Davis, and are publicly presented here for the first time.