Peter Doig (b. 1959)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY SOLD TO BENEFIT THE DONALD R. SOBEY FOUNDATION
Peter Doig (b. 1959)

Snowballed Boy

Peter Doig (b. 1959)
Snowballed Boy
signed twice, titled and dated '"SNOW BALLED BOY" Peter Doig '95 PETER DOIG' (on the reverse)
oil on plywood
23 ¾ x 15 7/8in. (60.2 x 40.2cm.)
Painted in 1995
Collection of Rainer and Theresia Haarmann, Neuwittenbeck, Germany.
Saatchi Collection, London (acquired in 2002).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 10 February 2006, lot 110.
Acquired by the present owner in 2006.
P. Ellis and C. Saatchi, 100: The Work That Changed British Art, London 2003, p. 209, no. 50 (illustrated in colour, p. 108).
C. Lampert and R. Shiff (eds.), Peter Doig, New York 2011, pp. 84, 295 and 331 (illustrated in colour, p. 85).
Kiel, Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Peter Doig. Blizzard Seventy-Seven, 1998, p. 134, no. 20 (illustrated in colour, p. 103). This exhibition later travelled to Nuremberg, Kunsthalle Nürnberg and London, Whitechapel Art Gallery.
London, Tate Britain, Peter Doig, 2008-2009, p. 157 (illustrated in colour, p. 108). This exhibition later travelled to Paris, ARC/ Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris and Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.
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Lot Essay

‘Painting should evolve into a type of abstraction; it should slowly dissipate into something else through time, through working, seeing things through’
–Peter Doig

‘The “screen” of snowballs in Snowballed Boy, 1995, a work on plywood, includes linear traces of the movement and impact of the blobs of white – all projected onto the second screen of the rigid support surface, with which the blobs must have interacted in order to have taken their form. An illusion presents itself, that the plywood panel might actually be transparent, like a glazed window; it seems to be holding the snowballs to its front surface while screening off the image of the boy behind it. The effect is a painter’s wonder’
–Richard Shiff

Painted in 1995, and formerly held in the Saatchi Collection, Snowballed Boy is a jewel-like composition that occupies pivotal territory in Peter Doig’s practice. Upon a pale ground, scored with grey and pink tracks, a green-clad figure stands alone, his face obscured by a splatter of white paint. A picket fence bisects the scene horizontally, working in abstract counterpoint with the tangle of trees behind. Throwing handfuls of pigment at the surface like snowballs, Doig bombards the scene with flurry of white ribbons and dots, conjuring memories of Jackson Pollock’s action paintings and Cy Twombly’s linear rhapsodies. Included in the artist’s major 1998 touring exhibition at the Kunsthalle zu Kiel, as well as his 2008 retrospective at Tate, London, the work marks a turning point within his celebrated ‘snow’ paintings. On one hand, its source image aligns it with the two Olin MK IV works of the same period, in which Doig began to move away from the dense surfaces of his earlier oeuvre. Whilst the present work’s thin, translucent background bears witness to this shift, the thick ‘screen’ of snowballs conjures earlier masterpieces - notably Charley’s Space (1991) and Cobourg 3 + 1 More (1994) – in which swirling blizzards sought to capture the distortive effects of memory. This combination of opposing techniques lends the work an extraordinary sense of layered depth. The figure, faceless and partially erased, is caught between these two painterly worlds. ‘An illusion presents itself, that the plywood panel might actually be transparent, like a glazed window’, writes Richard Shiff; ‘it seems to be holding the snowballs to its front surface while screening off the image of the boy behind it. The effect is a painter’s wonder’ (R. Shiff, ‘Drift’, in Peter Doig, New York 2011, p. 331).

Doig’s oeuvre is grounded in his own itinerant past. Raised between Scotland and Trinidad before moving to Canada aged seven, he settled in London during the 1990s, having attended art school in the city. During this period, Canada loomed large in his imagination: less as a set of personal memories, but more as a generic lens through which to explore the concept of looking back. Over the years its sprawling elemental features – its blizzards, mountains, forests and lakes – would come to define his vast, painterly memory-spaces. By resorting to archetypal images of the landscape, Doig sought to distance himself from its specifics: these were not paintings of Canada in a literal sense, but rather abstract odes to the wilderness of memory. Within this context, snow became established as a central motif. For Doig, it was not simply a souvenir of his childhood, but rather a conceptual device that could simulate that way images and recollections transmute in one’s head. Doig was particularly fascinated by Pieter Bruegel, who he felt treated snowflakes in much the same way: not as real phenomena, but as a metaphysical screen that distanced the viewer from the image beneath. In this vein, Doig conceived his ‘snow’ as akin to the white spots that flicker across television screens in moments of electronic interference. The present work is almost filmic in its treatment: a testament to Doig’s fascination with motion pictures, and perhaps a technical precursor to Adrian Ghenie’s cinematically-inspired Pie Fight paintings. The image of the anonymous snowballed boy – caught between moving frames – flickers like a cipher for the artist himself.

Doig’s earlier oeuvre had treated snow as a springboard for material experimentation. Within single compositions it was powdered, splattered, smeared, impastoed, liquefied like thawing rivers and compacted like frozen ice. These works were dense painterly matrices that invited the viewer to lose themselves within their complex depths. By the mid-1990s, however, Doig had begun to search for new approaches. In 1994, he was nominated for the Turner Prize, where he exhibited the newly-completed painting Ski Jacket (Tate, London). The work was the first to posit skiing – his beloved childhood pastime – as a metaphor for painting itself. ‘It is about the fumbling and awkwardness when learning to ski, how when you start skiing you slip all over the place, yet over a period of time you learn to cope and eventually manage to ski’, he later explained. ‘… I think painting is a bit like that. It takes time to actually take control of the greasy stuff’ (P. Doig, quoted in Peter Doig, exh. cat., Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, 2001, p. 20). The two Olin MK IV paintings that followed, based on images of a soaring skier, took this analogy to a new level. The sleek, airborne protagonist of these works floats weightlessly above an uncluttered painterly ground. Beneath, the horizon line and fence divides the composition into cool abstract planes, free from dizzying swamps of pigment. ‘I had wanted to get away from that device of always “looking through”’, explains Doig. ‘… I wanted to make things more open’ (P. Doig, quoted in A. Searle et al (eds.), Peter Doig, London 2007, p. 135). Upon the clear, almost airbrushed ground of Snowballed Boy, Doig’s final catapult of pigment might be seen as an ironic gesture of farewell.

‘Snow falls into the centre of Doig’s memory project’, writes Shiff. ‘More than a phenomenon to be remembered like any other memory, it becomes a candidate for the generic idea of memory. It induces retrospection, as if, through it, we were remembering ourselves, looking into our souls, regarding ourselves as alien reflections’ (R. Shiff, ‘Drift’ in C. Lampert and R. Shiff (eds.), Peter Doig, New York 2011, p. 331). In the present work, this concept takes on a new degree of complexity. Whilst grounded in the notion of remembering past places, Snowballed Boy may be seen to engage with Doig’s memories of his own painterly practice. Here, it is the artist’s technique itself, perhaps more so than the figure, that becomes the ‘alien reflection’. The various figurative elements – the fence, the trees, the signpost, the snowballs – fracture the composition into myriad segments, pushing it to the brink of illegibility. Yet where this technique had dominated the surfaces of works such as The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (1991) and Pond Life (1993), here it recedes into a pale white-on-white illusion. The effect is not one of chaos, as in these earlier paintings, but rather borders on stark Minimalist clarity, tentatively evoking the works of Robert Ryman or Agnes Martin. The long-standing influence of Barnett Newman’s ‘zip’ paintings is sharpened in the work’s delicate horizontal and vertical rhythms. ‘Painting should evolve into a type of abstraction’, Doig has said; ‘it should slowly dissipate into something else through time’ (P. Doig, ‘Peter Doig and Chris Ofili in Conversation’, in Peter Doig, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2008, p. 121). Snowballed Boy marks the moment at which this begins to ring true for Doig’s practice as a whole. As the blizzard starts to settle, a new formal clarity comes into being.



‘Like so many other Canadians, I am thankful for the light that Peter’s work has shined on Canada’s landscape and collective symbols. Art lovers across our country are truly proud of the place he has taken in art history and my sincere hope is that these masterpieces will enable Peter to help forge a bigger path for other Canadian artists to follow in these footsteps’
–Donald R Sobey

Christie’s is delighted to present two outstanding works by Peter Doig – Charley’s Space (1991) and Snowballed Boy (1995) – sold to benefit the Donald R Sobey Foundation. The Foundation is committed to the advancement of Canadian culture through the promotion of the visual arts, both within Canada and abroad.

In 2002, as Chair of the Sobey Art Foundation, Donald Sobey founded the Sobey Art Award, Canada’s pre-eminent art award for Canadian artists under age 40. Now in its 15th year, the Award has advanced the standing of young Canadian artists around the world.

As Chair Emeritus of the Sobey Art Foundation, Mr Sobey founded the Donald R Sobey Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Culture. Key among its cultural programming activities has been exhibition support for leading contemporary First Nations artists and infrastructure support for Inuit studio and print making space in Cape Dorset Nunavut.

In 2019, the Donald R Sobey Foundation, in conjunction with the Sobey Art Foundation, will undertake an ambitious multi-year program to strengthen international exhibition opportunities for contemporary Canadian artists. The proceeds of the sale of Charley’s Space and Snowballed Boy will support an endowment designed for this program.

Doig himself lived in Canada between the ages of seven and nineteen, returning for a short period during the mid-1980s. The country had a lasting impact upon his psyche, and his memories of the Canadian landscape gave rise to some of his most significant paintings throughout the 1990s. His snowfilled canvases sought to capture the sensation of remembering past places. ‘I had the opportunity to look at painters who had worked in that same vein in Canada’, he has explained, citing Tom Thomson and David Milne as particular influences. ‘… Maybe the surface is an abstraction of the memory of being in a certain frame of mind under certain weather conditions and in certain places.’

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