Alan Davie studied painting from 1937 to 1941 at the Edinburgh College of Art and also learnt silversmithing. A multi-faceted talent from the start, Alan Davie was interested in exotic art, played several instruments, discovered jazz and joined the Cam Robbie jazz band as a saxophonist.
While serving in the Royal Artillery between 1941 and 1946, Davie was inspired by reading James Joyce to write poetry himself. On his return to London, Alan Davie was particularly taken with the work of Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso exhibited there, which left a lasting impression on him and made him seek contact with modern English painters and their work. Taking Paul Klee's pictorial language as his point of departure, Alan Davie was already working in a manner close to Abstract Expressionism when he linked up with the tradition of early 20th-century Scottish modern art.
After his marriage to the artist Janet Gaul, Davie abandoned painting for jazz for a while. In 1948 Alan Davie met Peggy Guggenheim, who introduced him to early American Abstract Expressionism. Much impressed by the work of Jackson Pollock, Davie returned to painting. "Music for a Pagan Dance" (1949) is Alan Davie's first public foray into the new abstract "all-over" style of painting.
From then on a semi-automatic method of painting would be characteristic of Davie's approach to his work. Confirmation of Davie's painting came with Peggy Guggenheim's purchase of one of his works. In 1950 Davie had his first one-man London show, at Gimpel Fils (in 1946 he had already had one at Grant's Bookshop in Edinburgh), where he continued to show regularly.
In 1956 Alan Davie went to New York. Primitive art now inspired him to a powerfully gestural approach to painting; in "Footprint Image" he combined vehement brush strokes with his own footprints. Action Painting became important and Davie sought to contact the conventional painting process by working rapidly on the floor, adding pieces of rubbish, dripping paint and turning pictures around and over.
In the 1960s Alan Davie switched from "all-over" to compositions of real and fictive signs shaped by contours. Music, to which Davie again began devoting more time in the 1970s, has remained a constant in his life. In 1971 Davie produced his first record with the Tony Oxley group in 1971, which was followed by a spate of concerts.
Distinguished by spontaneity, exuberant colour and improvisation, Alan Davie's work has been shown frequently since 1946 and is owned by great international collections.
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