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.
Davie painted The Studio series between 1974-5. 1975 marked the first year that Davie spent the winter on St. Lucia; there, he would create drawings and gouaches in order to turn them into oil paintings upon his return to the United Kingdom. From the gouaches he drew images that became motifs and symbols in his larger compositions, representing the organized chaos and unique pattern of an artist’s studio.
Private Collection, Cambridge, acquired directly from the artist, 1992
Anonymous sale, Beurret & Bailly Widmer Auktionen, Basel, 20 June 2015, lot 267
Private Collection, acquired from the above sale