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Scottish artist Alan Davie dies at age 93

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The death of Scottish artist Alan Davie was announced on Sunday. Davie, 93, was known for his colourful abstract paintings.

Davie's career also saw turns as a jeweler, a jazz musician, a lecturer, and a poet. Born in Grangemouth, near Falkirk, in 1920, he studied painting from 1938 to 40 at Edinburgh College of Art.

Cquote1.svg It's an urge, an intensity, a kind of sexual need Cquote2.svg

—Alan Davies on art

His father was a teacher who dabbled in art and his mother's family was musically inclined. Upon seeing Coleman Hawkins performing in a music shop in Edinburgh, Davie borrowed £600 from his father to buy himself a saxophone. After serving in the Second World War, at which time he wrote much poetry later transcribed by his father, Davie toured with Scottish jazz bands.

Davie's work was admired by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and David Hockney. Davie himself collected non-Western art and liked tattoos, graffiti, and 'outsider art'. His final interview before death, with The Telegraph, gave an insight into how he viewed art: "It's an urge, an intensity, a kind of sexual need[...] something I do from an inner compulsion, that has to come out."

Modern photo of the Edinburgh College of Art, where Davie studied as a student.
Image: livepine (via Flickr).

He initially avoided painting as a career at all, then spent several years earning money by other means whilst his paintings failed to sell. His exhibitions in the late 1950s, however, were highly successful and launched his career. He was in the habit of choosing titles for his art only after completion.

Despite a strong presence owing to his lengthy red beard and off-beat humour, he was shy; his international fame waned. Recent years have seen a revival of interest with price increases for his early art. London alone is host to three exhibitions this month including at the Tate.

Tate Britain calls Davie "one of the first British artists after the war to develop an expressive form of abstraction" producing "kaleidoscopic canvases[...] that the artist relates to his love of jazz".


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