Peter Doig (b. 1959) The Architect's Home in the Ravine

Thursday, January 28, 2016
Peter Doig (b. 1959) The Architect's Home in the Ravine

CHRISTIE'S POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING AUCTION, 11 February 2016, London, King Street.

Peter Doig (b. 1959) The Architect's Home in the Ravine

CHRISTIE'S POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING AUCTION, 11 February 2016, London, King Street

Estimate £10,000,000 – £15,000,000 ($14,200,000 - $21,300,000)

‘Instead of painting the façade of a building and then shrouding it in trees I would pick the architecture through the foliage, so that the picture would push itself up to your eye. I thought that was a much more real way of looking at things, because that is the way the eye looks: you are constantly looking through the things, seeing the foreground and the background at the same time’ – P. Doig

‘Doig paints certain architectural structures – cabins, houses, and apartment buildings rather than churches – and deliberately puts them in places like the snow and the woods, in order that we remember that all of our (social) positions remain relative, even when isolated. So we see for example, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine, 1991, sliced to ribbons by an interstitial network of tree branches; or Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Concrete Cabin 1991/2, and Concrete Cabin III presented as an abandoned modernist society retreating into the woods’ – T. R. Myers

‘When you look at [Breugel’s painting] the snow is almost all the same size, it’s not perspectival, it’s the notion of the ‘idea’ of snow, which I like. It becomes like a screen, making you look through it’ – P. Doig

An epic masterpiece of Peter Doig’s early oeuvre, infused with a magical atmosphere and executed with astounding technical virtuosity, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (1991) dates from a pivotal moment in the artist’s career. Exquisitely rendered with rich, tactile, impasto across a delicately-woven surface tapestry, the work offers a magical vision of a house, barely glimpsed through a veil of intricate, interlaced branches. Deep in a crisp, snow-filled forest at the height of winter, the enchanted building lies silently before a glassy, ice-covered pool. Closely covered with verdant, evergreen trees, it captures the modernist home of the Canadian architect Eberhard Zeidler, situated in Rosedale at the heart of the Toronto ravine. Doig returned to Canada with this scene in mind, fascinated by its inaccessibility: dense nature hiding away, with only glimpses of life visible through the trees. Working from photos he had taken of Zeidler's house in the ravine, Doig picked out the architecture through the branches, conjuring a new image of the place brimming with oneiric wonder. A painterly meditation on the very mechanics of vision itself, The Architect's Home in the Ravine shifts in and out of focus before our eyes, oscillating between figuration and abstraction as we peer into its textural depths. Combining a vast array of painterly techniques, Doig painstakingly constructs a hypnotically-layered surface: from the thin veiling of liquid colour on the base of the canvas, to the spattering of snow-like white paint, to the thick ‘fossilisation’ of bark on the trees, to the sweeping use of the palette knife to suggest frosted branches. A tour de force of contemporary painting, the work deploys abstract techniques and processes to build an image that exists in the inarticulate space between reality, memory and imagination. Both romantic and elegiac, it resonates with the mesmeric poignancy of a nostalgic reminiscence or a lucid dream.


Peter Doig (b. 1959), The Architect's Home in the Ravine. Signed, titled and dated '"THE ARCHITECTS HOME IN THE RAVINE" PETER DOIG 1991' (on the reverse). Oil on canvas. 78 7/8 x 98¾in. (200 x 250cm.). Painted in 1991

In The Architect’s Home in the Ravine, Doig fuses together a wealth of art historical and popular cultural references: Jackson Pollock’s kinetic eddies of ‘all-over painting’ with the modernist architecture of Zeidler and his continental colleague Le Corbusier; Paul Cézanne’s planes of vivid colour with glossy magazine adverts; Pierre Bonnard’s dreamlike imaginary with Doig’s childhood memories of Canada; Edvard Munch’s expressive visions with the landscapes of Canadian Group of Seven artist LeMoine Fitzgerald, and the snow-filled visions of Pieter Bruegel with the work of the lesser-known David Milne. The deeply erudite artist navigates these sources with seamless dexterity, creating a beguiling scene that is spectacularly unique and powerfully his own. 

Painted in 1991, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine was carried out the same year that Doig first encountered Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Briey-en-Forêt. Built in 1961 as a utopian solution to post-War living, Le Corbusier’s modernist dream was abandoned in 1973; a victim of changing aesthetic and economic fortunes. Vividly recounting his first sighting of the building, Doig explained ‘I can remember the terror of the pitch black, with the densest trees around. When you do finally see the light of a house it’s incredibly welcoming’ (P. Doig, quoted in R. Shiff, ‘Incidents’, in Peter Doig, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2008, p. 37). Part of a group of artists and architects devoted to restoring its painted façade, Doig began a complex emotional relationship with the building that was to become the inspiration for his series of Concrete Cabins. Prefiguring this important group of paintings, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine recreates the clean geometry of Zeidler’s iconic building whilst deliberately borrowing Le Corbusier’s iconic panels of colour. Rendered in bright primaries tones of yellow, red and blue, the fascia of the silent, empty house glows vibrantly through the forest, its royal purple roof breaking through the veil of snow and vertiginous redwood tree trunks.

The Architect’s Home in the Ravine was created shortly after Doig’s graduation from the Chelsea College of Art and Design. There, he was awarded the prestigious Whitechapel Artist Prize, leading to a solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1991 in which the present work was included. The prospect of such a major institutional show at such a formative stage in his career sparked an intense period of creativity and, in the lead up to the exhibition, Doig produced a small number of large format canvases that represent the touchstone of his subsequent oeuvre. Included in the Whitechapel exhibition alongside The Architect’s Home in the Ravine were major works such as Swamped (1990) and Iron Hill (1991). Now recognised as some of the best in his career, many of the paintings produced during these critical early years are housed within international museum collections, including The House that Jacques Built, 1992 (Tel Aviv Museum of Art), Boiler House, 1994 (promised to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and Ski Jacket, 1994 (Tate, London).

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