Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Alan Davie

Born 1920 died 2014. Nationality: British.

Davie trained at the Edinburgh College of Art where in 1941 he gained a Diploma and also was awarded a travelling scholarship which had to be postponed during his war service in the Royal Artillery. When he was demobilised in 1946 he initially began a teacher training course but give this up in favour of work as a professional jazz musician, playing piano and saxophone. He also returned to painting and began exhibiting. In 1948 he took up his travelling scholarship to tour Europe and was in Venice for the first post-war Biennale. Here he was inspired by exhibitions of Picasso and Klee as well as American modernists including Pollock, de Kooning and Rothko who were represented among works from the Peggy Guggenheim collection. (Peggy Guggenheim later bought two of Davie’s works and recommended him to the Gimpel Fils Gallery in London who have regularly shown his work from the 1950s to the present day.)

These influences were to be important in Davie’s development as a painter, together with his keen interest in African art, of which he amassed a notable collection. He created a personal style and visual language, his own version of expressive abstraction, highly colourful and replete with signs and symbols which he intuitively drew from his knowledge of different cultures and ancient myths.

In 1956 Davie was given a solo exhibition in New York and there met with several key personalities in the American Abstract Expressionist movement, including Pollock who expressed enthusiasm for Davie’s work. The success of the exhibition immediately increased Davie’s standing in the UK and an exhibition shown at Wakefield Art Gallery and the Whitechapel Gallery in London two years later marked his emergence as a significant figure among contemporary British artists.

Davie’s work is to be found in numerous public and private collections around the world. He was awarded the CBE in 1972 and made Senior Royal Academician in 2013.

For The Guli Dance, No.12 Opus 610A
Cosmic Signals I