Alan Davie (1920-2014)
Improvisations for Tigers Tail
Oil on canvas
Signed, dated 1960 and inscribed verso
Height: 28 in (71 cm)
Width: 42 in (107 cm) including frame
The tiger’s tail motif was a recurring one throughout Davie’s work throughout the 1960’s. It reflects a lighter and more optimistic mood than the more sombre paintings of the previous decade.
Alan Davie (b1920) trained as a painter at Edinburgh College of Art from 1938 to 1940. For a while earned his living as a jeweler and jazz musician and also wrote poetry in the1940’s before returning to painting. He traveled widely in Europe, studying a wide range of modern art, including Jackson Pollock’s, which he saw at the Guggenheim in Venice. This led Davie to adopt mythic imagery and forceful painterly gestures. From this time his pictures concentrated on themes of organic generation and sinister ritual, fluctuating between turbulent paintwork, animate presences and more geometric forms, sometimes in the same work. From 1953 to 1956 Davie taught in London at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where he became interested in African and Pacific art. As early as 1958 Davie emphasized the importance in his work of intuition, as expressed in the form of enigmatic signs. During the 1960s he represented such images with increasing clarity at the expense of gestural handling. In 1971 he made his first visit to the island of St Lucia, where he began to spend half of each year and which brought Caribbean influences to bear on his suggestive imagery.
In 1948 he held solo exhibitions in Florence and Venice and had work purchased by Peggy Guggenheim. In 1950 he had his first solo exhibition at the Gimpel Fils Gallery in London, where he exhibited frequently throughout his career, including three further exhibitions in the 1950’s and a solo show in 1961. In 1957 he showed work at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 1958 he was part of the Critics Choice Exhibition selected by David Sylvester and also that year he had his work included in the Venice Biennale. In 1993 Davie was given a major retrospective at the Barbican Gallery in London.
Alan Davie's work has been widely exhibited and is included in numerous international public and private collections. Tate Britain, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Foundation Maeght and the Museum of Modern Art New York are some key examples.