Alan Davie

Alan Davie is recognised as a landmark artist bridging the end of the second World War into the beginning of a contemporary era of artwork. He is both Scotland’s most important artist of the 20th Century and one of Britain’s most internationally renowned painters. Of all European artists, Davie was one of the first to realise the importance of American Abstract Expressionism.

Born in 1920, in Grangemouth, Davie attended the Edinburgh College of Art. The Society of Scottish Artists featured some of his work in an early exhibition. Davie played tenor saxophone in the Edinburgh-based Tommy Sampson Orchestra, which broadcast and toured throughout Europe after the Second World War. He also earned a living producing jewels throughout the post-war period, including for the British actress, Vivien Leigh. Davie travelled extensively and in Venice was affected by a variety of cultural icons as well as by other painters of the time, including Paul Klee, Jackson Pollock, and Joan Miró. Davie wed potter, artist, and designer Janet Gaul in Edinburgh on October 29, 1947. They were parents to Jane, a girl, who was born in 1949.

Davie’s enthusiasm for Zen is especially evident in his painting style, which was a spirituality that came about after reading the book: ‘Zen in the Art of Archery’ by Eugen Herrigel. Declaring that the spiritual path is incompatible with preparing ahead, he strove to paint as instinctively as possible, which was intended to bring forth components of his unconscious. He was interested by the work of psychologist Carl Jung and shared a vision with surrealist painters like Miró in this regard.

Alan Davie’s paintings are a complicated yet joyful celebration of creativity that blend the expressive freedom of abstraction with a plethora of signs, symbols, and phrases. They use images drawn from various world cultures as well as a love of music and language. Alan Davie began to establish a solid name as a painter in the 1950s, and by the 1960s, his work had attracted attention from audiences around the world.

Davie also created several screen-prints in addition to painting, whether on canvas or paper, the latter of which he preferred. Before the British art community could accept his combination of ancient and recently produced symbols, he found an audience for his work in Europe and America. Davie emphasised the value of improvisation in his lectures as his method of choice. He took the position of a divine soothsayer fending off the advances of reasoned civilization.

Davie, largely regarded as Britain’s answer to American painter Jackson Pollock, revered as a romantic figure. Many of Davie’s paintings, like those of Pollock, were created by standing above the canvas while it was lying on the ground. He continued to add paint layers until, occasionally, the original artwork had been heavily overpainted. The artist was adamant that his paintings are not pure abstraction and that they all have symbolic meaning despite the speed at which he worked, with many being worked on simultaneously. In support of the primal, he noted how many cultures have adopted similar symbols in their visual languages and compared the job of the artist to that of the shaman.

His art flourished and he went on to receive numerous honours, including the 1963 So Paulo Biennale prize for best foreign painter and the 1966 first place at the International Graphics Exhibition in Cracow. The Barbican Art Gallery in London (1993) and Tate St. Ives both had retrospectives (2003). Davie lived primarily on the island of St. Lucia since 1971, which has given his pictures a Caribbean feel.

Since his death in 2014, 30% of Alan Davies’s works that have been presented to auction houses going on to be auctioned for £100k–500k, his legacy of artworks has firmly established itself as a favourite for investors.

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MARKET SIGNALS

MEDIUM Yearly lots sold Sell-through rate Sale price Price over estimate
Painting 7 68.7% £35k 8%
Work on Paper 3 81.8% £8k 7%

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