Lot 23
  • 23

Alan Davie

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
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  • Alan Davie
  • Peter's Joy-Pit
  • signed and dated 16 JAN 61 on the reverse; titled on the stretcher bar
  • oil on canvas
  • 101.5 by 122cm.; 40 by 48in.


The Artist, from whom directly acquired by Gimpel Fils, London, August 1961
Acquired from the above by David Bowie, 28th September 1993


Alan Bowness (ed.), Alan Davie, Lund Humphries, London, 1967, cat. no.324.


Original canvas. The canvas appears sound. There are some minor instances of light rubbing around the extreme outer edges of the canvas with some fine lines of craquelure in one or two spots, most apparent at the left vertical edge with some resulting flecks of loss. There is a spot of loss to a tip of the red impasto in the upper left quadrant. There are some very fine lines of craquelure and reticulation in some isolated spots most apparent to the yellow and green pigments in the lower left quadrant, together with some flattening to one or two of the raised tips of thicker impasto. There is some light surface dirt to a few spots. The work appears to be in very good overall condition, with fresh and vivid colors throughout. Ultraviolet light reveals some possible minor retouching at the upper and lower left corners. There are some areas of fluorescence to the work which appear to be in keeping with the artist's materials. The work is tightly float mounted in a metallic strip frame.                          Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Alan Davie had as an insatiable curiosity for life and fervent will to create as David Bowie. He was as much in his element as jazz musician, scuba diver, gliding enthusiast, jewellery maker and poet as he was as painter. This may have been one of the reasons that Bowie was drawn to this free-spirited artist - an artist who created his own unique, spontaneous and often improvised artistic language which fed on the diversity of these interests, but also was informed by his experiences of primitive art, American Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism and Zen Buddhism.

Bowie spent time and effort considering which works by Davie to include in his collection, going to the source - René Gimpel, Davie's dealer since 1950. René would lay out several works for Bowie to consider and the collection now includes two carefully chosen examples. By 1961, when Peter’s Joy-Pit was painted, Davie had been recognised internationally as a new radical force in modern painting. Already with a New York show to his name, retrospectives at both the Wakefield City Art Gallery and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, and having represented Great Britain at the XXIX Venice Biennale in 1958, he was hailed by critic Alan Bowness as, alongside Francis Bacon, one of the most influential artists of his time.

A sure signifier of the popular acclaim for his work was its appearance in the iconic Swinging Sixties film, Blowup. His paintings were sought after by leading institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate, London, as well as major collectors, most significantly Peggy Guggenheim who he met at the 1948 Venice Biennale. Her recognition of the unique force of his work propelled him onto the international arena through a 'sell out' show at the Catherine Viviano Gallery in 1956, but also exposed him to contemporary American Abstract Expressionists in her collection – making Davie one of the earliest British painters to come across their work.

Davie has since been associated with the New York School and also the St Ives School, yet he stood aloof from these groups; his work was informed as much from European art as American and as much from ancient art as modern trends.  It is the synthesis of all these experiences which gives Davie his unique style. Peter’s Joy-Pit captures the delight of Davie’s visual experience, emitting a tremendous burst of jubilant energy played out by the tension created in the dramatic interplay of the more structured linear forms and the spontaneous free-flowing swirls of rapidly applied rich pigments – although chaos threatens, it is not allowed to take over. The physical energy involved in making this work is felt in each sweeping brushstroke, which become the pictorial equivalent of the jazz melodies Davie listened to as he painted, stripped to the waist with canvases laid on the floor.