Alan Davie

Self-Portrait with Brushes (1937)

About this artwork

This picture was painted after Davie's father (also an artist) gave his sixteen-year-old son oil paints, brushes and a mirror and invited him to paint a self-portrait. Davie has the intense and serious look of a young artist engaged in his work, clutching the tools of his trade. The painting was submitted as part of the artist's portfolio to Edinburgh College of Art, and helped to gain him an entrance scholarship. It is probably Davie's second painting, painted immediately after another self-portrait, which the artist later destroyed.

  • title: Self-Portrait with Brushes
  • accession number: GMA 4108
  • artist: Alan DavieScottish (born 1920)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Visual arts Self-portrait
  • date created: 1937
  • measurements: 61.00 x 46.00 cm
  • credit line: Purchased with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1997
  • copyright: © The Estate of Alan Davie
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Alan Davie

Alan Davie

Davie was born in Grangemouth, near Edinburgh and studied at Edinburgh College of Art. In 1948 he saw the work of the American Abstract Expressionists and was impressed by their intensity and freedom. Davie abandoned traditional methods of composition and subject matter and sought to free his art from premeditated decision-making. This approach owes much to the artist's interest in Zen Buddhism and there is also an analogy with jazz - Davie was a jazz saxophonist early on in his career. In the later 1950s and 1960s Davie's brushwork became more controlled and the imagery more legible. Mysterious symbols began to appear, found in sources as varied as American Indian pottery, maps, ancient rock-carvings and Aboriginal art.