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Essay by Lynne Green

Essay by John
Russell Taylor

Essay by David Boyd Haycock


In the Studio



In this connection it become easy to understand why Doig cites as important influences on him Hopper, Wyeth, Rothko and Prunela Clough.  At first glance this seems a wildly varied and inconsistent list. It is interesting, in a British painter, that three of the four are American, especially since Doig has spent relatively little of his forty years in the United States.  Certainly, Hopper and Wyeth make instant sense as influences on Doig's work; that clearly applies to his treatment of the figure in his paintings.  Rothko he explains as drawing his attention to a particular range of dark reds and also emphasising the need for painterly backgrounds.


Andrew Wyeth

But where does the comparatively little known Clough come in?  Her influence is also concerned with the backgrounds, and particularly with Doig's characterisation of them as "painterly".  The figures of course are, in their own way, "painterly"; but in English the term generally caries the overtone of agitated surfaces, of paint worked on, worked over, worked up.  The creation and recreation of texture was something which much exercised Clough in her work, and likewise it excesses Doig.


Prunella Clough

What distinguishes his figures from their background, and helps to make them stand out, is whole business of texture.  Whereas the figures themselves are rendered in smooth and limped paint, the backgrounds are painted, and scratched, and scrapped off, and painted again, until a texture is achieved which no so much creates and illusion of the original as actually reproduces the original on canvas. (Though the comparison has quite possibly never occurred to Doig) one may find oneself not only of Clough, but also the Boyle Family, with their meticulous recreation of road surfaces and sand patterns in art.)


The Boyle Family

The art of Maxwell Doig is immediately recognisable as his, not only because of his very individual deployment of various painterly techniques, but also, primarily indeed, because of his distinctive vision. Such skill in purely representational painting is rare indeed these days, but one does not win the Villiers David Prize, as Doig did in 1997, for skill alone.  What makes Doig stand out, then and now is his vision   of life itself.  As he puts it, "In an age when everything is moving so fast, I'm interested in portraying stillness and quiet". And who, in the light of Vermeer and Hammershoi, can argue with that?  


Vilhelm Hammershøi

John Russell Taylor 2006