Alison Watt

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 travels 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.



Alison Watt’s work has been widely exhibited and is held in many important public and private collections. Important recent exhibitions include A Shadow on the Blind, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, 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). Watt’s work is included in many important collections including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Southampton City Art Gallery, the British Council Collection, London, the US Embassy, London, and the Uffizi in Florence.




Alison Watt: Biography (PDF)

The Sun Never Knew How Wonderful It Was

Parafin, 2016

© Parafin Ltd. 2016