Alan Davie, Lund Humphries and the Yorkshire Connection
In 1967 Alan Bowness, future Director of the Tate, wrote the first monograph on Alan Davie and described him as being ‘among one of the major figures in the art of our times’.
Lund Humphries has a unique connection with Davie that began back in 1957, continued through the publication of Bowness’ 1967 monograph, through to our recently published book entitled Alan Davie & David Hockney: Early Works. It is not only our legacy with Alan Davie that we’d like to celebrate, however, but also the unique connection Lund Humphries has with Davie, Hockney, Bradford and Yorkshire itself.
The origins of Lund Humphries lie with the Bradford printing company Percy Lund, Humphries & Co, formed in 1895. Although it was the publisher of The Penrose Annual, a review of the graphic arts, from 1909, the real beginning of the firm’s publishing activities dates from the publication in 1939 of Frank Lloyd Wright’s An Organic Architecture (reissued by Lund Humphries in 2017).
By the 1940s and 1950s Lund Humphries was publishing the first illustrated monographs on leading British artists of the day: Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Paul Nash and, later, Barbara Hepworth.
Peter Gregory was joint Managing Director of Lund Humphries from 1930 to 1939 and Chairman from 1945 to his death in 1959. An adopted Yorkshireman, his great friendship with fellow Yorkshireman Henry Moore was the impetus for Lund Humphries’ long publishing association with Moore as well as with other British Modernists. The connection and love of Yorkshire would play an important role in the development of the list as witnessed in the publication of another Yorkshire inhabitant Barbara Hepworth’s first major monograph, published by Lund Humphries in 1952.
The connection with Alan Davie had started before the publication of Bowness’ monograph. In 1949, Peter Gregory established The Gregory Fellowships in partnership with Yorkshire’s University of Leeds with the aim of ‘..bringing younger artists into close touch with the youth of the country so that they may influence it’. Gregory was actively involved in the selection of Fellows and Alan Davie held a Gregory Fellowship in Painting from 1957 to 1959, during which time his seminal 1958 show in Wakefield proved inspirational to a young Bradford-born British artist – one David Hockney. Influencing the youth of the country indeed.
Hockney was struck by Davie's landmark Abstract Expressionist paintings, which mirrored and stimulated his own fledgling experimentation with colourful abstraction. Moreover, Davie’s ‘vibrant, intuitive, improvisational and painterly pictures in dialogue with the touchingly personal, autobiographical and sexually charged works of the early 1960s’ struck a chord with the young artist ‘…through which Hockney first found his voice as a modern artist’ (Marco Livingstone – art historian and independent curator).
We are delighted that the legacy first formed under Peter Gregory with Yorkshire, Bradford and Alan Davie is celebrated once again in our new publication Alan Davie and David Hockney: Early Works edited by Eleanor Clayton and Helen Little.
Artists Davie and Hockney are given equal billing in this richly illustrated text that moves the discussion beyond straightforward comparison to reveal a moment when each artist expanded the expressive potential of the painted canvas. Based on new research, the book features new interviews with key figures from the period including Davie’s original supporter, Sir Alan Bowness.
Such continuity is rare in publishing these days – Percy Lund, Humphries and Co was founded forty-two years before the birth of David Hockney and over sixty years before the fledgling artist was inspired by Gregory Fellow Alan Davie.
The printing side of Lund Humphries continued in Bradford until the printers folded in 1994. The Lund Humphries publishing home fires, however, continue to burn brightly.
Alan Davie and David Hockney: Early Works edited by Eleanor Clayton and Helen Little