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Widely regarded as one of the leading painters working in the UK today, Alison Watt first came to public attention in 1987 when she won the National Portrait Gallery’s coveted annual award while still a student at Glasgow School of Art. Subsequently she became well known for her paintings of figures, often female nudes.
In 1997 Watt’s exhibition ‘Fold’ at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery marked a turning point in her work by introducing fabric alongside these figures. This was followed by ‘Shift’, a major solo exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2000, which saw Watt move away from the figure and display a series of twelve large paintings depicting swathes of fabric. The absence of the human figure marked an important shift in her work. However, rather than completely abandoning the figure Watt’s new paintings evoked the human body in its absence. In 2006-8 Watt undertook a prestigious residency as Associate Artist at The National Gallery in London. This culminated in the landmark solo exhibition ‘Phantom’ at the National Gallery in 2008. Watt was awarded an OBE in the same year.
In 2014, as part of the GENERATION programme of exhibitions, a retrospective exhibition of Watt’s paintings was held at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, and a solo display was presented at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. A major exhibition of new work, ‘A Shadow on the Blind’, opened at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, in 2018 and traveled to Parafin in 2019.
Watt’s exquisitely painted canvases continue to negotiate a position close to abstraction yet are firmly rooted in her studies of drapery, light, the human form and old master paintings and sculpture.
Self Portrait with Teacup
Omer Koç Collection
Photo: John McKenzie
Alison Watt: A Portrait Without Likeness
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
17 July 2021 – 9 January 2022
This significant body of new work consists of paintings made in response to the practice of the celebrated 18th-century portrait artist Allan Ramsay (1713-84) and are on show for the first time.
‘A Portrait Without Likeness’ explores the artist’s continuing fascination with Ramsay’s portraits. Watt, most known for her beautiful and intricate large-scale paintings of drapery and folds, has long been an admirer of Ramsay’s portraits of women, in particular the intensely personal images of his first and second wives, Margaret Lindsay of Evelick (1726-82) and Anne Bayne (died 1743). Both portraits reside in the Scottish Natioanl Portrait Gallery's collection and will be shown alongside Watt’s new work.
For further information please visit the National Galleries Scotland website.
Widely regarded as one of the leading painters working today, Alison Watt first came to public attention in 1987 when she won the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious annual award while still a student at Glasgow School of Art. She subsequently became well known for her paintings of figures, often female nudes, before beginning, in the late 1990s, to focus on the fabric which had previously served as backdrops or props for her figures. Since then Watt’s paintings have continued to negotiate a position close to abstraction while remaining firmly rooted in her studies of drapery, light, the human form and her committed engagement with Old Master paintings and sculpture.
Alison Watt’s work has been exhibited internationally and is held in many important public and private collections around the world. She has had solo exhibitions at major institutions including the National Gallery, London, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. Her work was recently included in ‘I Am Here! From Rembrandt to the Selfie’ at the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, which toured to the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lyon (as ‘Autoportraits’) and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (as ‘Facing The World: Self-Portraits from Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei’) in 2016. Important recent group exhibitions include ‘Defining Beauty’, British Museum (2015), ‘Reality: Modern & Contemporary British Painting’ at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich and Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2014-15) and ‘Autoriatratto’, Uffizi Gallery (2010). In 2006-8 Watt was Associate Artist at The National Gallery in London. Works from her residency were shown in her landmark solo exhibition, ‘Phantom’, at the National Gallery in 2008 and Watt was awarded an OBE in the same year. In 2014, as part of the GENERATION programme of exhibitions celebrating recent Scottish art, a retrospective exhibition of Watt’s paintings was held at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, and a solo display was presented at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. Watt’s work is included in many important collections including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, the British Council Collection, London, the Arts Council Collection, London, the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Southampton City Art Gallery, and the Uffizi in Florence.
24 May – 13 July 2019
17 March – 7 May 2016
A Shadow on the Blind
Published by Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Essay by Laura Smith
Design by Matt Watkins
2018. 68 pp., 36 ills., 28 × 22 cm
© Parafin Ltd 2021