Peter Doig, ‘Bird House’, 1996, Phillips

Property from an Important European Collector

From the Catalogue:
Peter Doig’s paintings exude an otherworldly quality, and represent alluring syntheses of the artist’s nostalgia and adept mastery and melange of painting and photographic realism. Bird House, painted in 1996, is a beautiful ode to the artist’s memories of snowy Canada, a country in which he spent his formative years, characterised by an itinerant childhood and subsequent adult life, moving between Scotland, Canada, England, and Trinidad.

Bird House hails from an extremely desirable period of Doig’s works, during which time he produced his most sought-after snowscapes. These works from the 1990s foreshadowed Doig’s quick rise to critical acclaim, highlighted by his Whitechapel Artist Award in 1991, and his becoming a Trustee of the Tate Gallery in 1995.

In the early 1990s the artist began creating pieces that depicted motifs of snow and skiing: works which were at once figurative and fantastical, and intensely retrospective. “I often paint scenes with snow because snow somehow has this effect of drawing you inwards and is frequently used to suggest retrospection and nostalgia and make-believe.” (Peter Doig, quoted in Paul Bonaventura, “A Hunter in the Snow,” Artefactum 9, 1994, p.12) This nostalgic propensity for retrospection can perhaps be likened to his steadfast commitment to painting: then a refreshing contrast to the works of his peers in the 1990s, typified by shock tactics and a stark presentational mien. Doig’s ardent study of modern masters such as Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, and Paul Gauguin is thus self-evident in Bird House.

In the present work, the titular bird house is engulfed by a spectacular web of gnarling branches, a testament to Doig’s endless fascination with portraying areas on the periphery of civilisation, where an unbridled nature comes to the fore but equally where the presence of Man leaves a small but noticeable imprint. The spindly lines that sprawl outwards in the top half of the canvas create an impenetrable web of fractal lines, denying the viewer access to the fence in the background. The collapsed and compressed image is at once abstract, an effect achieved by Doig’s painterly method of working ‘backwards’ when creating his works—beginning with the foreground’s birdhouse, extended rope, and the tree bark, he then works into the painting, filling in the gaps between the branches, and adding in the fence.

The muted hues of pinks, blues, and yellow are immediately reminiscent of Monet’s snowscapes, an influence which the artist himself has noted as important. Set against the tactile, grainy wooden panel, Bird House is meticulously rendered, and imbued with a hallucinatory or dreamlike quality. Doig’s careful selection of hues and varying levels of saturation of pigments, as well as light, fluid brushstrokes injects the piece with a palpable surrealism, a quality that is undeniably Doig, and which has earned him his title as the painter’s painter.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed, titled and dated 'Peter Doig "BIRD HOUSE" 96' on the reverse.

London, Ridinghouse Editions, Peter Doig- Small Paintings, 11 December 1996 - 25 January 1997

Sprüth Magers Lee, London
McCabe Fine Art, Stockholm
Private Collection
Phillips, London, 14 October 2015, lot 3
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

About Peter Doig

Peter Doig’s enigmatic paintings are characterized by their captivating combination of figurative depiction and dreamlike quality. Doig draws on personal memories from his childhood in Canada, as well as imagery sourced from photographs and films, to craft images that exist in fantastical, timeless spaces that feel both personal and universal. In Concrete Cabin (1994), one of Doig’s many depictions of Le Corbusier’s modernist apartment buildings, Doig depicts the pristine architectural monument against a dense, ominous forest, creating an uncanny tension that is integral to Doig’s work.

English, b. 1959, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, based in Trinidad

Solo Shows

Michael Werner Gallery, 
New York, NY, United States,
"Peter Doig"
Michael Werner Gallery, 
London, United Kingdom,
"Peter Doig"

Group Shows

Lyndsey Ingram Opens at 20 Bourdon Street
View Artist's CV