20th Century Artists


Alan Davie

Alan Davie is one of Britain’s most important post-war artists. Born in Scotland, he won a travel scholarship whilst at Edinburgh College of Art that allowed him to explore Europe with his wife in 1948-9. They walked and hitched from Paris to Geneva and Zermatt, and on to Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome and then the South of France, Barcelona and Madrid. Davie was inspired by meeting a circle of artists at the Venice Biannale of 1948 to produce new work that was exhibited later that year in Venice and Florence, where Music of the Autumn Landscape was purchased by Peggy Guggenheim. His reputation had taken off, and he had friends and introductions throughout the European contemporary art scene from this time onwards.

Davie is a versatile creative figure – he has made a living as a jazz musician (playing the saxophone) and a jeweller as well as as an artist. He has lived his life by Zen Buddhist principles – first writing an essay entitled The Creative Act and Zen Buddhism in 1955 - and has said of his work that “Art just happens, like falling in love” (quoted in the catalogue of his first Retrospective Exhibition, 1958). He has always valued a sense of childlike innocence in his life and work, writing in 1963 ‘How much more important than Art, just to be a bird’.

His influences are diverse – saying in 1958 ‘I feel very close to the alchemists of old’, ranging from the ‘primitive’ and Australian Aboriginal art and pre-Renaissance art and architecture – nature, intuition – Paul Klee – mystic symbols – Surrealism – the language of signs from different cultures. Spends several months of each year in the Caribbean island of St Lucia – symbols and warm colours pervade his work produced there – painting of the Indian sub-continent. In July 1991 Davie said ‘COLOUR IS A VERITABLE STUFF OF MY LIFE.’

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