Jule David Dabbs, Jr.
1927 - 2007
Danville native David Dabbs is known as a local celebrity among art collectors and java drinkers alike. If not sipping coffee at the now-defunct G.C. Murphy or the original McDonald’s in Ballou Park Shopping Center, Dabbs could be found in front of an easel, paintbrush in hand.
Known as “Diamond” to his childhood friends, a nickname his father gave him as a child, Jule David Dabbs, Jr. began his professional career as a sheet metal worker, then as the owner of a heating and air-conditioning business. Taking evening art classes with Carson Davenport at Averett College and Roy Craven at Stratford College, Dabbs had limited formal training, but his love of painting finally inspired him to devote himself to his art full-time.
Dabbs often scoured the countryside, photographing buildings and people, his small sketches and studies evidence of his attention to detail. Equally adept at both oils and watercolors, Dabbs’ interests spanned every subject matter, from the common place to the exotic. His works include tobacco barns as well as Asian bridges, still lifes of apple baskets and decoys, and portraits of local personalities, forlorn children in the doorways of ramshackle houses, and nude bathers guarded by armed Native America braves. Inspired by his passion for history, especially the era of the American Civil War, Dabbs illustrated battle scenes on large canvases and small reliefs in plaster, as well as portraits of historical luminaries.
Eventually, Dabbs became an art instructor, offering private lessons and teaching classes at the YMCA and for the Dan River Recreation Department. Well-known NASCAR artist Garry Hill credits Dabbs with being an important influence in his career. Besides numerous local exhibitions, Dabbs was also included in exhibitions at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1969, and the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, in 1970.
Dabbs’ versatility as an artist is evident from the myriad works presented in this exhibition. The Museum is grateful to the family of David Dabbs and the numerous collectors who have shared their pieces with us.