Artist biography

Scottish painter and printmaker. He trained as a painter at Edinburgh College of Art from 1938 to 1940, initially favouring poetic imagery and coming into contact with modernism at exhibitions held in London of works by Picasso (1945; V&A) and Paul Klee (1945; Tate). He explored a diverse range of activities, however, before returning to painting: from 1949 to 1953 he earned his living by making jewellery and in 1947 he worked as a jazz musician, an activity he continued in later life. He wrote poetry during the early 1940s.

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 emphasised the importance in his work of intuition, as expressed in the form of enigmatic signs. During the 1960s, both in paintings and in coloured lithographs, 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, as in Bird Gong No. 10, Opus 730 (1973; London, Brit. Council). Taking on the role of a disinherited shaman, Davie created a synthesis of mythologies from a variety of cultures for a modern civilisation devoid of its own village myths.

Bibliography
Alan Davie (exh. cat., ed. B. Robertson; London, Whitechapel A.G., 1958)
M. Horowitz: Alan Davie (London, 1963)
A. Bowness: Alan Davie (London, 1967)
Alan Davie (exh. cat., intro. W. Januszczak; London, Gimpel Fils, 1983)
D. Hall, ed.: Alan Davie (London, 1991)
M. Tucker, ed.: Alan Davie: The Quest for the Miraculous (London, 1994)

ADRIAN LEWIS

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