Jerwood Foundation

Alan Davie (1920-2014)

Fish Charm No.1, 1965

  • Details

    Copyright the artist. Signed and dated ‘Alan Davie/NOV 1965’ and inscribed ‘FISH CHARM/48” x 60”’ (on the reverse)

  • Medium

    oil on canvas

  • Dimensions

    122 x 152.5 cm. (48 x 60 in.)

  • Provenance

    with Gimpel Fils, London, where acquired by the Wood Prince family, and subsequently given to the next owner who sold the painting at Christie’s:
    Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 12 December 2008, lot 89, where purchased.

  • Exhibited

    London, Gimpel Fils, Alan Davie, March 1966, no. 16.

  • Literature

    Exhibition catalogue, Alan Davie London, Gimpel Fils, 1966, illustrated.
    A.Bowness (ed.), Alan Davie, London, 1967, no. 518, pl. 100.
    Collection Catalogue, Jerwood Collection, London 2012 p.31

Fish Charm No. 1 belongs to a series of works that Alan Davie painted in 1965. Davie included a number of symbols which hold both Christian and ancient Egyptian references in his Fish Charm paintings. The relevance of these symbols has been discussed by Alan Bowness in his book Alan Davie, published in 1967: ‘The fish has an inevitable Christian reference, and this is confirmed in the Fish Charm pictures, of 1965, by its association with the Egyptian symbol of life, which also suggests both phallus and the Christian cross.’

Davie’s wide range of influences includes ancient and non-Western art, the work of Paul Klee, American Abstract Expressionism, Oriental mysticism, and his extensive travels around the world. He has worked as a professional jazz musician as well as an artist, and sees these two disciplines as linked. Davie has described the colour and dynamics of paint as being like music: ‘When you get several colours coming together it is equivalent to several notes. The harmonising quality between the colours is a musical experience.’ (Talking Pictures, Scottish Television Production, 1992).

A BP Spotlight exhibition of Davie's work can be seen at Tate Britain (info here), London until 28 September 2014

Image: Copyright the Artist

Born in Grangemouth, outside Edinburgh, Davie studied at Edinburgh College of Art in the late 1930s. After serving in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, he worked as a professional jazz musician, playing the piano and saxophone. Travel to Europe, where he met Peggy Guggenheim, and New York where he met Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock, were particularly influential on Davie’s development as an artist. He has taught and lectured at a number of institutions, including the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London (1953-56), Leeds University (1956-59), the Royal College of Art (1977) and the University of Brighton (2002). He was appointed CBE in 1972 and Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art in 1999. Davie lived and worked in Hertfordshire.