ALAN DAVIE, LOTS 3, 7, 12 & 15
ALAN DAVIE studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1938 to1940, before enlisting with the Royal Artillery. In the early 1940s he earned his living as a poet and jewellery maker before becoming an artist. The major 1945 Picasso and Klee exhibitions in London gave him an early insight into modernism. However, poetry remained important in his attitude to imagery and his improvisational technique, as did his concurrent career as an accomplished jazz musician. In 1948, Davie travelled extensively throughout Europe where he was influenced by the continental avantgarde. In Venice, the works in the Biennale inspired him to take his painting to a larger physical scale. Here, he met Peggy Guggenheim who became an early collector and introduced him to works by Rothko, de Kooning, Motherwell and Pollock, making Davie one of the first European artists to observe at close hand the work of the emerging ‘New York School’. Following his first solo show at the influential Gimpel Fils gallery in 1950, Davie’s work featured in several significant group exhibitions, including 50 ans d’Art Moderne at the Palais International des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (1958). His first solo exhibition in America was in 1956 at the Catherine Viviano Gallery, where he met Pollock and Rothko in person. His international reputation was confirmed when he represented Great Britain at the São Paulo Bienal in 1963. He has since been collected by institutions worldwide, including MoMA New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; Kunsthaller Bern and the Tate, which held a retrospective of his work in 2003-4.
PATRICK HERON, LOTS 4, 9, 14, 17, & 20
PATRICK HERON studied at the Slade School of Art from 1937 to 1939. His reputation was secured after the war by his one-man exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in 1947; he was then includedin the Festival of Britain in 1951 and he curated the influential Space in Colour at the Hanover Gallery in 1953. Heron was also one of Britain’s foremost art critics, writing for New English Weekly (1945-7), the New Statesman and Nation (1947-50) and was later the London correspondent to Arts, New York (1955-58). In his writings he focused on contemporary European art, writing essays on Picasso, Klee, Cezanne and Braque. He met Clement Greenberg in 1954 and together they became the leading figures in the transatlantic dialogue on abstract art. In 1956, the year of the first American Abstract Expressionist exhibitions in Britain, Heron moved to Eagles Nest, at Zennor, Cornwall, where his paintings radically shifted away from a loose, lyrical take on Braque to a formalist abstraction, comprising broad bands or vertical slashes of colour. Heron’s first solo exhibition in New York was at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery in 1960. Throughout the 1960s his popularity was confirmed by numerous solo exhibitions, including the Tate’s 54:64 Painting and Sculpture of a Decade, an exhibition which reinforced the position of British Art within the context of wider international art movements. In 1965 Heron was awarded the silver medal at the São Paulo Biennial. His work can be found in many public collections worldwide, including Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Boymans van-Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh and the Tate which held his retrospective in 1998.
ROGER HILTON, LOTS 2, 6, 10, 16 & 19
ROGER HILTON studied at the Slade School of Art (1929-31 and 1935-36), but it was at the Académie Ranson in Paris, under Roger Bissière, that he learnt the importance of simplified colours and tone. After the war, Hilton held various teaching posts, including the Central school of Arts and Crafts (1954-6), but travelled to Europe regularly. His first solo show at Gimpel Fils demonstrated the influence of modern European developments, such as ‘tachisme’ and the CoBrA artists. In 1953, with the Dutch painter Constant, he visited the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, where he was inspired by Mondrian’s Neo-Plastic ideas, although in Hilton’s works of the period, his forms – in white and primary colours – remain irregular and organic. In February 1958, the ICA staged Hilton’s first retrospective, where the Tate purchased a work. There followed several years of commercial and critical success: Hilton was taken on by the progressive Waddington Galleries in 1959, and in 1961 a major solo exhibition was held at Charles Lienhard, Zurich. In 1963 he won the John Moore’s prize, followed by the UNESCO prize at the Venice Biennale in 1964. 1n the 1950s Hilton began to visit Cornwall regularly, forming important friendships with other abstract painters working there; in 1965 he settled permanently near St Just in Cornwall and his work of the late 1960s and 1970s became more figurative. Despite being bedridden for the last few years of his life, Hilton continued to work, using gouache and poster-paint, creating a dark yet humorous body of work on paper. Works by Hilton can be found in major international collections including National Gallery of Canada; Queensland Art Gallery, Australia; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. Major retrospectives of his work have been held at the Serpentine Gallery (1974), Hayward Gallery (1993) and Tate (2006).
PETER LANYON, LOTS 1 & 5
PETER LANYON was born in Cornwall and studied at the Penzance School of Art and at the Euston Road School of Art, London. In 1939, the arrival in St Ives of Nicholson, Hepworth and Gabo, leading figures of the London avant-garde scene, had a profound effect on his work. Lanyon took Gabo’s Constructivist sensibility, with his interest in sculpting movement in space, and allied it to the rhythms and structural geometry of the surrounding landscape. Despite their abstract nature, Lanyon’s paintings remained based on his observation of the local Cornish landscape, becoming ‘abstractions’ of his total experience of the land, sea and sky, seen across both time and distance. Lanyon found recognition early in his career with a solo show at Lefevre Gallery, London in 1949. He travelled to Italy frequently during the 1950s where he was exposed to European trends and in 1950 he saw paintings by Pollock and Gorky at the Venice Biennale. Lanyon was included in important survey exhibitions in the 1950s including London-Paris at the ICA and he was commissioned by the Arts Council to paint Porthleven for the Festival of Britain exhibition. In 1952 he first exhibited at Gimpel Fils, the start of a long association with one of London’s leading contemporary galleries. Lanyon was one of the first of a new generation of Post-War painters to show in New York. As early as 1951 he exhibited at the Riverside Museum and also had seven works included in a group show at Passedoit Gallery in 1953. His solo exhibition at Catherine Viviano Gallery in 1957 is considered a landmark moment (it was here he met the leading figures of the New York school), but it was Viviano’s continued support for his work that lead to his high profile in the States Despite his early death, aged just 46, as a result of a gliding accident, works by Lanyon can be found in many public collections in the United States and in Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa; Cleveland Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Art Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon and the Tate, which held a major retrospective of his work in 2010.
WILLIAM SCOTT, LOTS 8, 11, 13 & 18
WILLIAM SCOTT was born in the industrial heartland of Scotland, but he was raised in the market town of Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. His humble childhood was to provide the inspiration for his subject matter and muted palette of the late 1930s and 1940s, most notably his still lives of burnt black pans and kitchen utensils. After studying at Belfast School of Art (1928-31), Scott moved to London to take up a place at the Royal Academy. He was drawn to the Parisian art world, exhibiting at the Salon d’Automne, whilst also running his own art school at Pont Aven in Brittany. After the war, Scott taught at Bath Academy of Art at Corsham Court, one of the most progressive art schools in Britain. The teaching staff were young artists on the cusp of international fame who were already showing at London’s most cutting-edge galleries. By the early 1950s, the still life element of Scott’s works became much reduced, so that the image was barely discernible from the work’s overall structural design. Scott had his first solo show at the Lefevre Galleries in 1942, followed by a second in 1945 and at Leicester Galleries in 1948 and 1951. It was his one-man exhibition at the Hanover Gallery in 1953 which first brought Scott’s paintings to the attention of the American institutions, and before the show had closed Scott had been introduced to Martha Jackson, a leading dealer in New York, who was to represent him in the States throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. In 1958 Scott represented Britain at the Venice Biennale. As a result of this increasing international exposure, his work can be found in public collections throughout the world, including the Solomon Guggenheim Museum and MoMA, New York; Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris and the Tate. This year – his centenary – has seen a number of museum retrospectives.