Lot 22
  • 22

Alan Davie

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Alan Davie
  • Flutter by Night
  • signed, titled, dated JAN 1962 and inscribed on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 122 by 152.5cm.; 48 by 60in.


Gimpel Fils, London, where acquired by Mrs Charles Benenson, August 1963
Gimpel Fils, London, where acquired by the present owner, November 2007


Alan Bowness, Alan Davie, Lund Humphries, London, 1967, cat. no.381.

Catalogue Note

'When I am working, I am aware of a striving, a yearning, the making of many impossible attempts at a kind of transmutation - a searching for a formula for the magical conjuring of the unknowable. Many times the end seems just within reach, only to fly to pieces before me as I reach for it' (Alan Davie, quoted in Alan Bowness (ed.), Alan Davie, Lund Humphries, London, 1967).

Fuelled by visits to primitive collections held in major museums, Davie’s fascination with prehistoric art stemmed from his belief that man’s common aesthetic sensibility could be traced back to the work of the artists of the ancient civilisations and that the artist's role was akin to that of a shaman.

Having established his reputation in the 1950s as a major international painter through the support of the likes of Peggy Guggenheim and Jackson Pollock, Davie sought to animate his own work with a greater animistic spirituality. More poetic titles, such as Flutter by Night, serve less to draw attention to the purely aesthetic qualities of the work and rather encourage a more profound engagement with the expressionist qualities of the completed painting. 

Despite such an individual and unique conception, Davie is readily aligned with the great abstract painters of the later 20th century both within Britain and abroad. Davie was notably one of the first British artists to view the work of the American Abstract Expressionists when they were exhibited at the Greek Pavilion at the first Venice Biennale following WWII. There was a mutual understanding, as demonstrated by Jackson Pollock's comment on seeing a powerful work by Davie: 'I know exactly what he means, push and pull, black and white, good vs bad'. Flutter by Night reveals that same contrast between graduated tones of black and white within a busy and forceful composition that continues to pull the viewer in. Furthermore the title, hinting at the delicacy of an insects' wing juxtaposed with the darkness of night, reveals a more troubled dialogue that provides this work with depth and intellectual rigour.