At London’s Courtauld Gallery, ‘Outsider’ Artist Peter Doig’s New Paintings Find New Neighbors: Van Gogh and Manet

The exhibition reflects the view an artist who has often found himself "between places."

A viewer admires Canal (2023), one of the most recent paintings by Peter Doig in his self-titled exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Photo: Vivienne Chow.
A viewer admires Canal (2023), one of the most recent paintings by Peter Doig in his self-titled exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Photo: Vivienne Chow.

Most people start a new chapter in life with a new job, a new home, or a new relationship. But Peter Doig is not most people; at the age of 63, the famed painter has embarked on a new journey with a new home base and studio in London.

The Scottish artist, who relocated from his longtime base in Trinidad to London in 2021, is subject of a new exhibition at the Courtauld. His most recent works are hung next door to masterpieces by the likes of Van Gogh, Manet, and Gauguin. Twelve fresh paintings and 20 works are paper are featured in an eponymous exhibition, the esteemed gallery’s first show of a contemporary artist since it reopened in November 2021 after a three-year revamp.

A viewer admiring Peter Doig's paintings, <i>Alpinist</i> (left), and <i>Alice at Boscoe's</i> at the Coutauld Gallery in London. Photo: Vivienne Chow.

A viewer admiring Peter Doig’s paintings, Alpinist (left), and Alice at Boscoe’s at the Coutauld Gallery in London. Photo: Vivienne Chow.

The paintings on view, some in large scale, include works that were created in the artist’s new studio in the U.K. capital. One such work, Canal (2023), centers around London as a subject. Also on show are canvases the artist started to work on in Trinidad and New York, such as Alice at Boscoe’s (2014-2023), featuring the artist’s daughter in a hammock. Doig started the painting when his daughter was 11 years old before completing it in London years later for this exhibition. The show also includes the artist’s self-portraits first executed in Trinidad.

Born in Edinburgh, the Turner Prize-nominated artist lived in Trinidad and Canada before moving to London to become an art student in the 1980s. He stayed there through to 2000 when he moved to Trinidad, and subsequently he became an art market phenomenon. The works at the Courtauld convey this sense of transition, according to Barnaby Wright, deputy head of the institution.

“The feeling that Doig has, that he has always been an outsider wherever he lives, and wherever he works, is very strong. That sense of dislocation appears in the work,” Wright told Artnet News. “The role of memory and reflection, and a certain wistful quality, a certain longing, comes out in his Trinidad in pictures that he’s made for this exhibition, rather than perhaps the absolute immediacy of being there on the island.”

Peter Doig, <i>Night Studio</i>. Courtesy of the artist.

Peter Doig, Night Studio. Courtesy of the artist.

Viewers might come across an impression that the artist might not feel totally rooted, noted to Wright, citing the large-scale self-portraits Night Studio (2015). “There’s a sense of being slightly between places,” said Wright. “These are not just straightforward depictions of the real but at places of the imagination. And often there’s a certain uneasy quality to them.”

Doig’s paintings are hung in a gallery that is also home to some of the most world’s famous paintings, such as Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882) and Vincent van Gogh’s iconic Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889). Showing his work next to masterpieces he has long admired has been meaningful for Doig, albeit “terrifying.” In an interview with the Guardian ahead of the exhibition’s opening, Doig acknowledged the pressure: “You’re there for a beating basically.”

“Peter Doig” is on view at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London from February 10 to May 29.

Peter Doig, <i>Night Bathers</i> (2019) Pigment on linen. Copyright Peter Doig, All Rights Reserved. DACS 2023.

Peter Doig, Night Bathers (2019) Pigment on linen. Copyright Peter Doig, All Rights Reserved. DACS 2023.

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