Peter Doig - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 24, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Germany
    Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2004)
    Sotheby’s, Paris, 8 December 2009, Lot 2
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Dallas, The Dallas Museum of Art; Vero Beach, The Gallery at Windsor; Toronto, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Peter Doig: Works on Paper, 12 September 2005 - 18 June 2006, no. 36, pp. 46, 136 (illustrated, p. 46)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Sitting perched atop a mountain, a hooded figure is shown from behind. In his hands, a picture in the process of being painted, clearly depicting the mountains and lakes beyond. Peter Doig’s Figure in Mountain Landscape (The Big…) dates from 1998, and the work perfectly showcases his celebrated exploration of the nature of painting and representation. This has resulted in his sought-after works being included in museum collections around the world, as well as in solo exhibitions dedicated to Doig. The subject matter of this picture clearly appealed to Doig at the time it was painted, as Figure in Mountain Landscape (The Big…) is one of a group of related pictures in several media, largely created between 1997 and 1999, all showing the same figure in the mountains. This group includes the vast Figure in Mountain Landscape II, which is almost twelve feet wide and is now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as an etching in Tate, London.

    As its title suggests, this picture shows a figure seated in the foreground, with the background filled with the rugged landscape of Canada, eloquently captured through washes of green oils of different thickness and darkness. The pictorial technique of focussing upon a central figure whose back is turned—upon whom the viewer can project themselves—was famously employed by Caspar David Friedrich, not least in his iconic Wanderer above the Sea of Fog of around 1818, in the Kunsthalle Hamburg. While seemingly paying tribute to that work, Figure in Mountain Landscape (The Big…) is based upon a photograph showing another painter, Franklin Carmichael, painting Lake Grace in Canada. Carmichael was one of the ‘Group of Seven,’ an association of landscape painters who immersed themselves in the Canadian landscape, seeking to capture both the character of their nation and the grandeur and beauty of nature. The photograph of Carmichael in his smock is an image of artistic dedication—he has clearly climbed to some peak in order to look down on the lakes.

    By contrast, Doig is the first to admit that he is first and foremost a studio painter. Even in Canada, he found himself unable to respond to the prospect of painting en plein air. During the late 1980s and the 1990s, when he was living in London, he would create pictures showing Canadian themes and landscapes, reaching out to his homeland, hinting at his own nostalgia—yet these depended usually on imagery that he found in Canada House, rather than anything first hand. Ads, films and other people’s photos were his source material, as is the case in Figure in Mountain Landscape (The Big…). Doig has recalled: ‘So many of the paintings are of Canada, but in a way I want it to be more of an imaginary place-- a place that’s somehow a wilderness’ (Doig, quoted in J. Nesbitt, ed., Peter Doig, exh. cat., London, 2008, p. 11.) This results in a complex play of artistic feints, cutting to the core of Doig’s entire probing and celebration of the nature of memory and of painting.

    Painting is clearly the focus in Figure in Mountain Landscape (The Big…): while most of the composition is dominated by the swathes of green with which the painter and scenery have been depicted, it is the picture alone that has been rendered using frenetic brushstrokes of a contrasting red. Even the painter himself is subsumed within the all-encompassing green that dominates the rest. Doig’s use of green forces the viewer to acknowledge the picture’s status as precisely that: a painting. Doig has emphasised that he considers paintings as, ‘form and illusion in space’ (Doig, quoted in R. Tand, ed., ‘Peter Doig and Chris Ofili in Conversation’, pp. 113-122, in Ibid., p. 118.) By using this rigorously-limited palette, Doig deliberately undermines the suspension of disbelief that is usually invoked in figurative painting. ‘I never try to create real spaces-- only painted spaces,’ he has explained. ‘That’s all I am interested in’ (Doig, quoted in Peter Doig: Charley’s Space,, Maastricht & Nîmes, 2003, p. 33.) He is revealing the mechanics of the medium, the tension between its clear fallibility as an incomplete means of communication and its mysterious effectiveness as a subjective vehicle for conveying a sense of emotion. Figure in Mountain Landscape (The Big…) eloquently explores this, revealing Doig’s self-proclaimed interest no so much in memories themselves, but instead ‘in the idea of memory’ (Doig, quoted in R. Schiff, `Incidents’, pp. 21-43, in Nesbitt (ed.), op. cit., 2008, p. 21.)

  • Artist Biography

    Peter Doig

    Scottish • 1959

    Peter Doig is widely considered one of the most renowned contemporary figurative painters. Born in Scotland and raised in Trinidad and Canada, Doig achieved his breakthrough in 1991 upon being awarded the prestigious Whitechapel Artist Prize and receiving a solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London.

    Doig draws on personal memories and source imagery in his pursuit of exploring the slippage between reality, imagination and memory through painting. The material properties of paint and expressive possibilities of color thereby serve to approximate the foggy, inarticulate sensation of remembering. His practice maintains a thin and balanced line between landscape and figure, superimposing photographic imagery and memories, both real and imagined.

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Property of a Prominent European Collector


Figure in Mountain Landscape (The Big...)

signed, titled and dated '"FIGURE IN MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPE (THE BIG...)" 1998 Peter Doig' on the reverse
oil on paper
59.1 x 41.9 cm. (23 1/4 x 16 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1998.

HK$1,800,000 - 2,800,000 

Sold for HK$1,625,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018