Craigie Aitchison: Paintings

9 July - 28 August 2009 London

Timothy Taylor Gallery and Waddington Galleries are delighted to announce Craigie Aitchison: Paintings, an exhibition in which the artist, widely acknowledged as the greatest colourist of his generation, will present both new and specially selected older works.

Now in his 80s, Aitchison is known and admired for the Mediterranean intensity of his palette, his flat, almost two-dimensional forms and simple icon-like compositions. His distinctive subject matter consisting of still lifes, landscapes, portraits, nudes, Bedlington terriers and sheep, as well as crucifixions, are all rendered in vibrant, luminous colour, and powerfully invoke both the early Italian Renaissance as well as the British visionary tradition.

One of Aitchison’s great achievements is his fresh, contemporary approach to religious subjects: in Crucifixion, 2005, deep blue is used to create a nocturnal Italianate scene – the moon, the solitary Cyprus trees and the diminutive scattered sheep intensify the loneliness of the figure hanging from the cross. Aitchison transfers this sense of mystery and timelessness to other works: in Landscape with Peacock, 2009, the bird in the foreground possesses an intense symbolic power as it struts through a sumptuous scarlet landscape. Meanwhile the quiet simplicity of the jug of flowers in Still Life Vase and Flowers (April), 2009, has a timeless archetypal quality. The exhibition also demonstrates Craigie’s abiding passions and preferences: his love for the Italian landscape and his longstanding preference for black sitters drawn from his friends in South London. Two portraits of Naaotwa, one of his principle models, dating from 2006, offset the subject against a powerful reddish-pink background. Meanwhile numerous delicate landscapes, such as Chapel near Montecastelli, 2007, depict the area around his home in Tuscany.

Craigie Aitchison was born in Edinburgh in 1926. He became active on the London art scene in the 1950s and studied at the Slade School of Art, travelling to Italy on an Italian Government scholarship in 1955. His friends and contemporaries include Michael Andrews, Euan Uglow and Colin Self. In 2006, Aitchison curated an exhibition of his late best friend, Euan Uglow at the Holborne Museum in Bath.

Aitchison was elected a Royal Academician in 1988, won the inaugural Jerwood Prize for painting in 1994, and in 1999 was awarded a CBE for his contribution to British Art. Past solo exhibitions include Kettle’s Yard Gallery, Cambridge, 1979; an Arts Council retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery, London, 1981; Craigie: The Art of Craigie Aitchison at the GoMA in Glasgow, 1996. Past group exhibitions have included Prophecy and Vision, Arnolfini, Bristol, 1982 andThe Hard-Won Image, Tate Gallery, London, 1985. A major retrospective of Aitchison’s work was held at the Royal Academy in 2003 and he continues to exhibit widely in the UK and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions includeCraigie Aitchison at Waddington Galleries, London, 2006; Craigie Aitchison: The Prints 1969 – 2008, in collaboration with Advanced Graphics, London, at Abbott Hall in Kendall, Cumbria, 2008; and The Art of Craigie Aitchison at the Paul Smith Space gallery in Tokyo, 2008. Forthcoming exhibitions for 2010 include a solo show of works from a private collection at the Talbot Rice University Museum in Edinburgh.

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