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Essay by David
Boyd Haycock

Essay by David
Boyd Haycock


In the Studio


Selected Quotes

"Doig is well known for his own ambient representations of buildings, boats and ruins, which often reflect his concerns about mankind's relationship with the landscape,andthe dynamic effects of time that are amplified when a building loses it's purpose. This feeling is experienced in pictures like "Moorland House in Winter" which reflects a sort of northern gothic drama that augments itself through the contrast of the natural landscape and the characteristics of Doig's subjects, whether building, boat, or otherwise. These are romantic images inspired by common subjects which makes them disarmingly familiar to the viewer, like pages torn from the book of life."

Archivist for Messum's



"Maxwell Doig is emerging as one of England's leading contemporary landscape painters, an artist with a discerning eye for place, and a unique technique with which to express his vision".

Author and Curator

"A really good artist makes us look at the familiar in a new way; things we might once have passed by without a second glance become suddenly remarkable. Paul Nash did it with his winter landscapes and paintings of trees; Maxwell Doig does it with the gable end of an old building, a deserted farmhouse, or the clock tower of an abandoned woolen mill. What at first sight seems ordinary becomes, through his hands and eyes, extraordinary. And you can never look at those things in quite the same way again."

Author and Curator



"Indeed one of Doig's pictures that best captures his holistic sense of architecture is Gasometer II, where his "magic hour" play of light on the Victorian ironwork highlights it's elegance, but perhaps it's obsolescence. This sharp eye belies Doig's warm intellectual generosity, and unlike some painters, he could never be accused of foregrounding himself. But somehow, he is still present in many of those works, like a shadow in a photograph cast by the person behind the camera."   

Messum's director


"Where Doig’s painting succeeds above and beyond an obvious facility  with materials and techniques is in his choice of what to represent and what not to represent within a system that gives him freedom rather than acting as a restraint. This can be identified as decorum – a quality of consistency and correctness in the characterization of the human figure and its physical setting, its reciprocal relation to objects in the real world, represented here by subjects drawn from the built environment. Doig’s achievement, over his whole career, is to have identified the best possible way to represent a particular subject, immaculately conceived, in its particular context."

Art Historian and Curator



"Having embraced the figurative during a period when the visual arts favoured the abstract, the conceptual and a range of new media, Doig has achieved a distinctive voice in the depiction of the human figure. It is no easy task to bring something fresh and vital to a painterly tradition that has its roots in the Renaissance and its rediscovery of Classical art. There is no doubt, however, that over the last decade Doig has produced art of arresting vision and virtuosity."

"Doig’s intense scrutiny of the world, the sensitivity of his interpretation and articulation of its richness and variety, is startling in its veracity and bravura. This is painting that requires of us considered attention. It repays time spent: in order to discover its qualities and its secrets. The artist’s transformation of the everyday is based on a profound concern with the human condition. While they are real people, his figures transcend the specifics of identity to become emblematic and allegorical: symbolic of us all. In our increasingly frenetic lives, Maxwell Doig offers us a rare opportunity to take the  “time to stand and stare”. "

Art Historian and Curator


"In Doig’s case, the single figure seen from above has become a leitmotif in his work. The single figures are imbued with a sense of solitariness, not loneliness or isolation. They are enclosed and sealed within the ‘safe’ confines of the picture plane and its rectangular frame. Self-contained, they can get on with their own thoughts behind their hats, their newspapers, or their averted gaze, while the artist orders the structure and form of the painting around them. Their stillness and quietude means that rather than standing out from their surroundings, they begin to merge with them, opening and folding like beautiful moths on the bark of a tree."

JO MANBY - 2013
Art Critic and Writer



"Looking at Maxwell Doig's paintings is an experience in modern classicism. We are seduced by the carefully ordered compositions,  by the quality of light and his masterly use of technique. The paintings are quiet but have an immediate effect and seem to grow in intensity with prolonged viewing. They have the feel of old colour photographs, faded and with the look of over enlarged grain. However, this is not painting which is trying to look like a photograph, he does not give you everything he sees, he chooses judiciously and pulls you into the work showing a calm relaxed pose, a reclining figure behind, a body dissolving in  peat saturated water. Each figure study has a calming effect, no shock value here. This is work which is as welcome as a windy hillside or a deserted beach. Somewhere to stop talking and just look."




“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 visions 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 Hammersmith, can argue with that?”

Art Critic and Writer



“Doig’s work is far from impervious to change, and if the following ten years are as varied and productive as the last decade, this exhibition will mark the emergence of a distinct and compelling painter.”

Art Critic, Writer and Broadcaster



“The single figures in these monotypes struggle to winch up bundles of oars or manoeuvre pairs against gravity.  The images are often large but never cluttered because already he is concerned with composition: the bent figures, the clashing diaganols of the oars, and the calm shapes of up-ended boats maintain a taut balance.  Acid yellows and blues prevent them from being either illustrations or very comfortable to contemplate.  … Like Vaughan he has an ascetic outlook, a rather narrow colour range and a concern with edge and structure which will keep the emotional temperature of his pictures cool.”

Writer and Artist



“There is a time when an artist feels ready to exhibit his work, to share his vision with others.  We may spend a few minutes in the gallery looking at it and then decide whether to stay or to move on.  The decision to remain and contemplate the world of Maxwell Doig would be a wise one.

He is an artist of serious intent who is mindful of the art of the past but who wishes to strike out and develop his own visual language and mythology.  His work displays constant shifts of subject and viewpoint.  A concern with ambiguity, with changes of scale and with linking disparate elements together is now evident in his drawings.

The figure was the basis of much of his earlier work but now he seems more concerned with industrial structures, sometimes drawn directly but always set in that area between the real, and the abstract.  There are elements here of the work of Prunella Clough and Antoni Tapies and an edginess that we find in Wols.  Textures of decay and even suggestions of electrical structures imply rather than describe objects.

The forms are often fragmented and then re-created to form new structures.  He is an artist who is already the master of his craft, a draughtsman who has looked long at the Renaissance drawings but who wishes to show us his enthusiasm for the modern world of cities and the technologies of this century.

The drawings are often in mixed media using printmaking techniques and then overworked with watercolour, gouache and chalk.  There is an oriental subtlety in the quality of the line, a sensual line that reminds me of Brett Whitely.  He is an artist at the beginning of his career but already we can see him shaping his world, forming his language.  Maxwell is excited by the world and its wonders and his developing vision will increasingly enrich our experience.  Stay and contemplate his work it will reward and surprise you.”

Artist and Friend