Alan Davie

Fairy Tree No. 5


Not on display

Alan Davie 1920–2014
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1727 × 2134 mm
Presented by the artist 1972

Catalogue entry

Alan Davie b.1920

T01584 Fairy Tree No.5 1971

Inscribed ‘68 64/ FAIRY TREE NO.5/ SEPT 71’ on reverse (also in pencil on stretcher) and ‘Alan Davie 71’.
Oil on canvas, 68 x 84 (173 x 213.5).
Presented by the artist 1972.
Exh: Gimpel and Hanover Galerie, Zürich, October–November 1971 and Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer Ltd, New York, December 1971–January 1972 (34, repr. in colour); Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, August–September 1972; Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig, November–December 1972; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, January 1973 (33, repr. and in colour).

The following catalogue entries incorporate information supplied by the artist in a letter to the compiler of September 27, 1974.

There are eight paintings to date entitled ‘Fairy Tree’. The first four are gouaches which were made in Cornwall in August 1969. The next four, of which T01584 was the first, are all in oil on canvas of various sizes, and dated September 1971. The genesis of the series was described by the artist: ‘A very free watercolour mass which ran down at the bottom, off the paper, suggested some kind of magic tree or bush and this was incorporated in other paintings. In some it became less like a tree’.

As opposed to his working habits of the early ‘fifties (T01748 and T01749) when he ‘felt the need to produce a work by a flash of intuition’ Davie is now ‘able to take a spontaneous discovery and work with it patiently which is resulting in many more works ... I work very systematically and thoroughly on themes—doing many versions until I exhaust the possibilities—but even then, I often continue a theme later in another medium or on another scale. Now the series is not produced all at the same time (T01748) but through individual pictures. Rather than destroy one which doesn’t seem good enough, I now make several other versions, and eventually revise the original (or realise that it was good after all!)’.

Other paintings of September 1971 are entitled ‘Serpent swallows the Fairy Tree’ and in reply to a question about the significance of this, the artist wrote: ‘Elements of one theme sometimes continue with those of another—a kind of cross fertilisation.’

In the artist’s numbering of his paintings ‘Fairy Tree No.5’ is Opus 693.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.


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