Born in East Orange, New Jersey in 1887, Randall Davey studied architecture at Cornell University from 1905 to 1907. In 1908 he began studying with Robert Henri at the New York School of Art and two years later, he traveled with Henri in Holland and Spain, participating in the group exhibition, “Independent Artists” in April of 1910. In the year that followed, Davey married Florence Nicks Sittenham of New York and in the summer of 1911, he painted with Henri and Bellows on Montiegan Island in Maine. He was appointed as an assistant instructor in Henri’s summer painting classes in Spain in 1912 and, soon after, he acquired a residence in New York City’s West Side.
Davey received his second Julius Hallgarten Prize from the National Academy of Design, for “Young Woman in Brown” and Honorable Mention from the Panama Pacific Exposition for “Lighthouse Keeper” in 1915. In 1916 he went on a painting trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts with Sloan and Bellows and in 1917 he spent several months painting in Havana, Cuba. In 1919 he took a motor trip from New York to Santa Fe, New Mexico and during the fall of the same year, he taught at the School of Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. During the following spring, he was a special instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago and as soon as classes commenced, he moved to Santa Fe. Davey became a member of the Taos Society of Artists in 1921 and from 1921 to 1924 he taught at the Kansas City Art Institute. In 1931 he was a member of the selection committee of the Broadmoor Art Academy and he served as a juror for the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
After a divorce from his wife Florence in 1930, Davey married Isabel Holt in 1932. Commissioned by the government in 1934, Davey worked on a mural for the New Mexico Military Institute. In 1937 he became an Associate of the National Academy of Design and, in the year that followed, he became a National Academician. Also in 1938, he won the Thomas B. Clarke American Figure Composition Prize from the National Academy of Design and served as a juror at the Biennial Exhibition of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. From 1945 to 1956 Davey taught painting at the University of New Mexico and in 1957 he was elected an honorary member of the School of American Research in Santa Fe. In 1961 he became a member of the Board of Directors of the Santa Fe Opera and designed the covers for their 1961-1962 programs.
Davey died at the age of seventy-seven in 1964. He left his home to his widowed sister-in-law, Kate H. Cullum, who opened a gallery and diligently promoted Davey’s work. When Cullum died, she left the Santa Fe home and some of his paintings, to the National Audubon Society.
A lover of horses and horse racing, Davey often employed them as subjects in his work. He is also well known for his sensitive portraits of female nudes. He produced a number of etchings, drypoints, lithotints and lithographs, all circa 1940.