In 1941 Alan Davie was awarded the Andrew Grant Travelling Scholarship while studying at Edinburgh College of Art. This was postponed due to military service and it was not until 1948 that he took the scholarship and embarked on a 'Grand Tour' of Europe. He visited his fellow Scot, William Gear, in Paris, where he admired the work of Bruegal and Bosch, hitched to Switzerland and saw the work of Arp and Ernst in Zurich and most significantly arrived in Venice for the first Biennale after the War. It was here that he experienced a synthesis of Romanesque architecture and early Christian mosaics with the work of Rothko, Pollock and Motherwell.
In December 1948 Davie exhibited at the Galleria Sandri in Venice. Peggy Guggenheim bought Music of the Autumn Landscape from this exhibition and an ensuing friendship allowed him further access to her extensive Surrealist collection, including Miró and Klee, as well as the New York School artists.
Davie returned to England, and in 1950 Peter and Charles Gimpel gave him his first one-man exhibition. It was not received well and inevitably Davie found success in New York before he was really accepted in London. In 1956 he held a one-man show at the Catherine Viviano Gallery in New York which sold out to great critical acclaim. Paintings were purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo.
Untitled female was painted during a time of great experimentation in sculpture, collage and monotype. By placing the board on the floor and using the paints that he made and mixed himself, a technique which he had learnt from Pollock, it gave him the ability to paint quickly and spontaneously. However the work itself is far more than an active expression of its production. The vigorous brush marks, dribbles and splashes are underpinned by a strong black architectural structure. Jewel-like reds and yellows emerge, like stained glass, within images or symbols, hinted at, ambiguous. This painting is not a spontaneous emotional response to a moment in time. It can’t be fixed to a certain event, experience or place.
House of Four Souls, painted in the same year, was sold at Christie's, London, on 20 November 2014 for £104,500.