23 October 2012 – 3 February 2013
Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, presents a De’Longhi Print Room show of the distinctive and idiosyncratic work of the Scottish artist Pat Douthwaite (1934-2002). It is the first exhibition of her work in a public gallery since her death of a prescription drug overdose ten years ago.
Pat Douthwaite: An Uncompromising Vision will sit alongside a season of exhibitions at Pallant House Gallery celebrating art from the margins which includes Outside In: National, an exhibition of the pioneering open entry competition; and the first major show in a public gallery for almost 50 years of the father of Art Brut, Jean Dubuffet who was also a key influence on Douthwaite.
During her lifetime Douthwaite often identified herself with the fringes of the art world, not least because her emotionally intense paintings and uncompromising vision set her apart from the establishment. A glamorous, maverick character, Douthwaite had a reputation for being ‘difficult', both in character and in her non-commercial approach to her work. Painting was a passion - usually undertaken at night while listening to experimental jazz music at full volume - and her ambivalence about parting with work was so extreme that she once staged a midnight theft to retrieve one of her own paintings having changed her mind about selling it to an unsuspecting buyer.
Born in Glasgow to a middle-class family, Douthwaite was self taught as an artist though she attended classes in mime and modern dance with Margaret Morris, the imposing wife of the Scottish Colourist painter J. D. Fergusson, who encouraged her to paint. In 1958 she left Glasgow for an artistic commune in East Anglia where she lived among fellow artists Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde and William Crozier. Their influence can be traced in her work of the time - Crozier in her restricted palette of red, black and white and Colquhoun and MacBryde through the simplified landscape forms, as well as the common influence of Jean Dubuffet.East Anglia was also where she met Paul Hogarth, a well-established artist who had houses in Cambridge and Majorca.
They married in 1960, having a son together and living together in relative stability for a decade. Eventually, though, the marriage fractured and Douthwaite's wanderlust, which was to dominate the rest of her life, took root. She moved north, living in a variety of homes in Edinburgh, Berwick and Ayr, travelling extensively abroad and never settling long in one place for the rest of her life. They divorced in 1981.
Douthwaite's subjects of choice were people and later animals, especially cats, which she adored. Early portrayals of Soho dandies were followed by a number of series of archetypal women - western heroines such as Cattle Kate, Mary Queen of Scots (featured in the show) and the doomed aviator Amy Johnson (to the chagrin of Johnson's relatives who did not appreciate her interpretations).
A trip to France in 1983 led to a series of haunting paintings inspired by the bohemian painter Gwen John and the exhibition features her 1983 painting of ‘Gwen John in Paris' loaned from the Hepworth Wakefield. Fittingly the show of Douthwaite's work coincides with an exhibition of Gwen John paintings paired with those of Celia Paul in Rooms 4 and 5 of the historic house.
Douthwaite's first significant gallery appearance was at Richard Demarco's gallery in Edinburgh in 1967, leading to a number of other exhibitions throughout the ensuing decades including a major retrospective exhibitions at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1982-83. Douthwaite's profile , though, remained relatively low until a solo exhibition at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh In 1993 finally seemed to give her the recognition she was seeking. The then art critic of The Scotsman, Edward Gage, proclaimed: "This exhibition demands that she should no longer be seen as an exotic maverick but acknowledged as one of the true originals of Scottish art."
However, Douthwaite's final years were not happy. After battling with illness and disability, and having sustained back injuries from a brutal attack in Edinburgh, she died alone of an overdose of prescription drugs aged just 68 in a hotel in Broughty Ferry. Guy Peploe, Director of the Scottish Gallery says: "There is often no happy ending in the life of the creative but Pat Douthwaite is present in her work and meeting her there is as rewarding and challenging as ever it was in her life."
Simon Martin, Head of Collections and Exhibitions at Pallant House Gallery says: "Pat Douthwaite's drawings have an edgy, idiosyncratic quality. During a life beset with personal difficulties, she created paintings and drawings that are charged with great power and tremendous wit. For many visitors the exhibition of her work at Pallant House Gallery will be an introduction to the work of one of Scotland's most distinctive modern artists, whose work remains in the mind's eye long after first seeing it."