Alan Davie Scottish, 1920-2014


Alan Davie is arguably one of Scotland’s greatest painters. The renowned art critic David Sylvester once referred to Francis Bacon and Alan Davie as the two most important Post-war British painters.


By the early 1960s Davie was drawing increasingly on myth and “magic symbolism”. He viewed himself less as an artist than as a medium or shaman.  A talented jazz musician, Davie began to borrow signs and symbols from cultures as diverse as the Navajo Indians, the Caribbean islands, Aboriginal Australians, and the Ancient Egyptians, Celts and Picts, all the while placing a high value on the “mythic and the poetic”.  Davie once said:


Symbolism, is quite an apparent theme in a lot of my work. I use it to kind of suggest narratives that I have in my head.


A vigorous experimenter and totally indifferent to any prevailing art movements or the opinions of anyone else, Davie followed his own path. Stuart Preston, art critic and writer for the New York Times from 1949-1965 in 1957 once wrote of Davie:


His repertoire of shapes is lavish-curlicues, boomerangs, arrowheads, big implacable rectangles and nests of rat’s cradles.


Davie’s fall from artistic prominence to relative obscurity was swift. Although he faded from public view, his work is now being appreciated anew after his death. Exhibitions of his paintings have been recently mounted at Tate Britain (2014) and at Gimpel Gallery. His place as one of Europe’s most important and potentially most influential artists may come to fruition as the body of his work is more fully explored.


Gimpel Fils, London

Whitechapel, Gallery, 1958

Wakefield Art Gallery

Falkirk Community Trust

Tate Britain, 2014

Museums and Public Collections

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois

Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University, Indiana

Dallas Museum of Art, Texas

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California

Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma

Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts

Hepworth Wakefield, England

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri

Museum of London, England

National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

San Diego Museum of art, California

Southampton City Art Gallery, England

Tate Gallery, London

Tyne & Wear Museums Database, England

Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, England

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