Zita Davisson

ZITA DAVISSON (b. 1928, d. 2017)

Zita Davisson was one of the leading American portrait artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Zita’s painting style had a softness and immediacy that prompted art critic John Gruen to write: “An uncanny sense of a living, breathing individual emerges from her canvases.”

In her distinctive style, Zita captured on canvas more royalty, society people, stars, and politicians than most painters meet in a lifetime. Sought by international celebrities for portraits that defined them, her art was collected and cherished by those quiet but significant people whose lives happen beyond the focus of the media. Zita’s paintings were exhibited in museums nationally and internationally, and she received numerous awards and certificates of merit.

The artist presented a succession of 47 exhibitions during the course of her life in such significant places as: The Guggenheim Gallery, London, The Newport Museum, RI, The National Academy Museum, NYC, The Palm Beach Gallery, Galerie Michel-Ange (under the royal patronage of S.A.S. Princess Grace), Monte Carlo, Alisan Fine Arts Ltd, Hong Kong, and The Southampton Historical Museum, NY.

Zita Davisson Obituary


Zita Davisson died peacefully on July 18, 2017 after complications following a fall walking her adored blond Chihuahua.

A renowned portrait artist, she resided in New York City and Southampton, NY. A list of her subjects reads like a Who’s Who of art, show business and politics. She painted H.R.H. Princess Diana of Wales with Prince William and Prince Harry, Nancy Reagan, Princess Grace of Monaco with her children, the Maharanee of Jaipur, Liza Minelli, Rudolph Nureyev, Vanessa Redgrave, Muhammad Ali, Gloria Vanderbilt and her sons, and the Rockefeller, Hearst, Havemeyer, Roosevelt, and Whitney families.

An artist from a young age, Ms. Davisson held her first solo show at age 12.. She trained as an artist at the Art Students League, NYC and with artist Jan de Ruth. Ms. Davisson grew up in Manhattan and in Switzerland. Her father was John P. V. Heinmuller, president of the Longines Wittnauer Watch Company, which was based in Geneva. Her mother, Luella, painted landscapes. She attended Belmont Academy at St. Moritz, Switzerland, and the Gardner School in NYC.

As a teenager Ms. Davisson signed with the Conover Modeling Agency, she later became associate art director at Harper’s Bazaar, and designed clothing for her own line. She has been married four times, has raised two daughters and has two grandchildren. She is survived by daughters Lacy Davisson and Darcy Rigas, grandchildren Virgil L. Doyle and Eliza L. Doyle, and son-in-law John Rigas.

Donations honoring the life of Zita Davisson can be made online through: www.calvaryhospital.org

Published in The New York Times on Aug. 6, 2017