Mystical Symbolism, Bellarmine Bottles and Kipling Illustrations

Join gallery manager Kate as she looks at some original prints by Alan Davie, one of the most potent image-makers in post-war British art. Gallery writer Max, looks at Nic Collins’ wonderful Bellarmine bottles and has a browse through some work included in the latest Goldmark Summer Magazine, including etchings by William Strang.

Alan Davie

Alan Davie was born in Grangemouth in 1920. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art, working initially as a jazz musician. Influenced by Klee and Picasso, he developed an ornamental style, illustrating his preoccupations with Zen Buddhism, Indian mythology and magic. Declaring that the spiritual path is incompatible with planning ahead, he has attempted to paint as automatically as possible.

From 1953 to 1956 Davie taught in London at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where he became interested in African and Pacific art. As early as 1958 Davie emphasised the importance in his work of intuition, as expressed in the form of enigmatic symbols. These symbols have combined to make him one of the most potent image-makers in post-war British art. Davie died in 2014.

William Strang

William Strang RA (1859 – 1921) was a Scottish painter and printmaker, notable for illustrating the works of Bunyan, Coleridge and Kipling. He was born at Dumbarton, the son of Peter Strang, builder, and educated at the Dumbarton Academy. He worked for fifteen months in the counting-house of a firm of shipbuilders before going to London in 1875 when he was sixteen. There he studied art under Alphonse Legros at the Slade School for six years. Strang became assistant master in the etching class, and had great success as an etcher.

He was one of the original members of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, and his work was a part of their first exhibition in 1881. Some of his early plates were published in The Portfolio and other art magazines. Some of his best etchings were done as series—one of the earliest, illustrating poet William Nicholson’s Ballad of Aken Drum, is remarkable for clear, delicate workmanship in the shadow tones, showing great skill and power over his materials, and for strong drawing. Some of Rudyard Kipling’s stories were also illustrated by him, and his likeness of Kipling was one of his most successful portrait plates.

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