PETER DOIG (B. 1959)
PETER DOIG (B. 1959)
PETER DOIG (B. 1959)
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PETER DOIG (B. 1959)

House of Pictures (Haus der Bilder)

PETER DOIG (B. 1959)
House of Pictures (Haus der Bilder)
signed twice, titled, and dated 'Peter Doig 2000⁄2002 House of Pictures (Haus der BILDER) PM Doig' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
76 ¾ x 116 ¼in. (194.9 x 295.3cm.)
Painted in 2000-2002
Victoria Miro Gallery, London.
David Teiger Collection, USA (acquired from the above in 2002).
His sale, Sotheby’s New York, 14 November 2018, lot 6T.
Private Collection, Europe.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Peter Doig: Charley's Space, exh. cat., Maastricht, Bonnefantenmuseum, 2003, p. 137 (illustrated in colour, p. 118).
A. Searle, K. Scott and C. Grenier (eds.), Peter Doig, London 2007, p. 158 (illustrated in colour, pp. 36-37).
C. Lampert and R. Schiff, Peter Doig, New York 2011, pp. 189, 297 and 357 (illustrated in colour, p. 188).
D. Walcott and P. Doig, Morning, Paramin, London 2016, p. 107 (illustrated in colour, p. 66).
Salzburg, Salzburger Kunstverein, Here Is There, 2001.
Santa Monica, Santa Monica Museum of Art, CAVE PAINTING: Peter Doig, Chris Ofili and Laura Owens, 2002 (studio view illustrated, pp. 2, 8-9; studio view illustrated in colour, pp. 52-53).
London, Victoria Miro Gallery, Peter Doig, 100 Years Ago, 2002 (studio view illustrated in colour, pp. 5, 7 and 9).
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery, Peter Doig, No Foreign Lands, 2013-2014, pp. 68, 74 and 210 (illustrated in colour, pp. 66-67; studio view illustrated in colour, p. 70). This exhibition later travelled to Montreal, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Peter Doig, 2014-2015, pp. 74, 75 and 158, no. 80 (illustrated in colour, p. 159). This exhibition later travelled to Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

A monumental panorama spanning three metres in width, Peter Doig’s House of Pictures (Haus der Bilder) is an extraordinary painting that dramatises the sensation of looking at art. Executed between 2000 and 2002, it is among the defining works of the thrilling, transformative period that straddled his return to Trinidad. Depicting a mysterious lone figure peering through a dark gallery window, the work is a masterpiece of self-reflection, capturing the spirit of an artist whose oeuvre is rooted in the observation and assimilation of images. Combining bold geometric rhythms with lyrical washes of electric colour, it draws together a staggering array of sources, uniting references to art and film with Doig’s own photographs and memories. Originally held for sixteen years in the prestigious collection of David Teiger, the work is the grand centrepiece of a remarkable series that includes Metropolitain (House of Pictures) (2004, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich) and House of Pictures (Carrera) (2004). It has been prominently exhibited throughout its lifetime, featuring in major touring retrospectives at the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh (2013) and the Fondation Beyeler (2014-2015).

At the turn of the millennium, Doig was enjoying extraordinary international acclaim. In 2000, he undertook an artist’s residency in Trinidad, where he had spent his earliest childhood years. The trip sparked feelings of longing and nostalgia, prompting him to return to the island in 2002. The move brought about a significant shift in his practice. Where Doig’s paintings of the 1990s had been dominated by thick, near-sculptural layers of impasto, he now embraced thin washes of paint, translucent layers and luminous, hallucinogenic colour. Along with masterworks such as 100 Years Ago (2001, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) and Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre (2000-2002, Art Institute of Chicago), House of Pictures takes its place at the dawn of this period. Rendered in dazzling tones of green, pink, red and blue, it confronts the viewer like a hazy mirage. Woven into its surface are echoes of art history: of Hopper’s lonely streets, the radiant hues of Matisse, the geometries of Minimalism and the rich, gestural textures of colour field painting. It is a portrait of how looking at pictures can help us make sense of the world around us, and return us to times and places lodged deep within our memory.

The present work’s genesis dates to the summer of 1999, when Doig was working in a studio in Vienna. ‘There was a gallery down the road called Haus der Bild[er]—House of Pictures’, he explains, ‘—which sold commissioned artworks, generic landscapes and portraits, painted in a nineteenth-century realist manner. It had this incredible façade with big letters that said “House of Pictures”’ (P. Doig, quoted in R. Enright, ‘The Eye of the Painting: An Interview with Peter Doig’, Border Crossings 98, June 2006). The gallery, Haus der Bilder Margarete Klewan, was located on Breite Gasse 10, and remained active until 2013. Doig recalls that it had a ‘magical feel from the outside. I never went in—I only looked in the window and took photographs of its frontage’. He was fascinated by its ‘mystery’, which reminded him of a scene from Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window: ‘this thing of looking through and then getting lost’ (P. Doig in conversation with K. Scott, in A. Searle et al. (eds.), Peter Doig, London 2007, p. 34). ‘I liked the wording too: Haus der Bild[er]’, he recalls (P. Doig, quoted in R. Enright, ibid.)

Doig made a few smaller-scale studies of the façade, but felt that the image needed a figure. Suddenly, he remembered a photograph he had taken some years back in Vancouver. ‘I had taken some snapshots when I was in an outside café in the countryside’, he recalls. ‘One of them was of a guy getting into a minivan; he had his hands in his pockets, looking for his keys, and he was dressed all in black leather like Johnny Cash … I never saw his face but he had this incredible mane of black hair and this black hat, and he had on these extreme cowboy boots. I wanted the figure to look European, so I made his hair red instead. I wanted him to be like a figure from a Fassbinder film. I was thinking of an ’80s artist, a painter maybe … He’s in that moment of reflection. I was definitely interested in his body language and how it suggested that he was lost in thought’ (P. Doig, quoted in R. Enright, ibid.).

At around the same time, Doig also encountered Honoré Daumier’s L’Amateur d’estampes (The Print Collector) (circa 1857-1863) in the Art Institute of Chicago. Collaging together his two photographic sources, he explained the ‘House of Pictures became my version’ (P. Doig in conversation with K. Scott, ibid.). While later paintings in the series would explicitly reference Daumier’s protagonist, the present work harnesses its mood of quiet, introspective contemplation. The amalgamation of images in this manner lies at the very heart of Doig’s practice, which sifts through a vast archive of real and half-remembered material. His itinerant youth, which saw him move to Trinidad as a two-year-old, to Canada as a seven-year-old and later back to London as an art student, furnished him with a deep awareness of how images and experiences mutate in the mind’s eye. From the very beginning, his art took flight from the collision of sources, delighting in the moments of déjà-vu sparked by the juxtaposition of disparate pictures. These jolts wrote their way into his canvases, whose fluid, dreamlike surfaces act out the slippages of memory. The figure outside the House of Pictures, born of this very process, seems to offer a curious cipher for artist himself.

As well as its reference to Daumier, the work brings together a staggering array of art-historical allusions. Barry Schwabsky likens the scene to a ‘Hopperesque urban moment’ that simmers with ‘existential disquietude’ (B. Schwabsky, Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting, London 2005, p. 92). Elsewhere, the work evokes the psychodramas of Expressionism, recalling the long shadows and atmospheric boulevards of Edvard Munch. Doig’s electrifying tones of neon pink and green capture his admiration for the Fauves, and for the tropical vistas of Gauguin. His windows, meanwhile, each alive with variegated colour and texture, conjure the paintings of Mark Rothko and Sam Francis. Doig’s paint swims with movement, dripping down the picture plane and collecting in watery bands. At the same time, he delights in the rigorous play of space, form and geometry. His characteristic division of the picture plane into horizontal bands, combined with the serial arrangement of the windows, creates a sense of grid-like order, evoking the works of Donald Judd, Barnett Newman or the Colour Charts of Gerhard Richter. Structure joins hands with ambiguity, just as it does in memory.

The work also contains echoes of Doig’s earlier oeuvre. As Keith Hartley has written, ‘the strong dark rectangles breaking into the light façade are reminiscent of the houses in several of Doig’s earlier “Canadian” paintings’ (K. Hartley, Peter Doig: No Foreign Lands, exh. cat. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh 2013, p. 66). Like these buildings, the House of Pictures is curiously anthropomorphic, the quivering shapes behind its darkened glass suggestive of human life and activity. In later works in the series, the windows would morph into semi-blank canvases; here, they recall the gaping apertures of Le Corbusier’s abandoned Unité d’Habitation, which peered through the forest of Doig’s Concrete Cabins like eyes. The artist invokes his own past, even as he journeyed to new shores. The writer Derek Walcott, who became friends with Doig in Trinidad, would later allude to this idea in his poem on the present work. ‘Rummage in the dark shop window, Rosencrantz’, he writes, ‘… you may find something there by choice, by chance, some rare books shriveled, its cover wizened and faintly autobiographical’ (D. Walcott, ‘House of Pictures’, in Morning, Paramin, London 2016, p. 66).

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