Leo Davy
Early Work 1950-1963

Holland Park 23 May - 27 June 2014


Leo Davy is an artist of aesthetic importance when considering post-war abstraction in Britain. Following studies under Reginald Brill at Kingston School of Art in the late 1930's, and later at the Slade from 1942-45 (moving with it to the Ruskin in Oxford), he became an active participant in the London art scene in the 1950's and early 60's. He settled in North Cornwall in 1968 where he lived and worked until his unexpected death in 1987.


Davy was included in a mixed summer show at Gimpel Fils in 1950 alongside avant-garde artists of the day, including Patrick Heron, William Gear, Alan Davie and William Scott. Among his circle of friends were the artist John Latham, philosopher and novelist John and Eva Tucker, the art editor of Penguin Books Germano Facetti and John Roberts (son of William Roberts).


This is the second exhibition of Davy's work to be held at Piano Nobile. It focuses on the Gimpel Fils era and follows the progression of Davy's work in the early 60's.  Through his abstract panel paintings and works on paper, Davy's dedication to, and development of abstraction, becomes clear.  Applying thick paint and washes to form blocks of colour, often quite angular, Davy reduces and purifies scenes of everyday life into his own carefully considered abstract vision. Undeniably of it's era, Davy's works engage in the international dialogue current at the time in Europe and the United States, through such movements as COBRA and the beginnings of abstract expressionism in New York, with the work of artists such as Mark Toby, Jackson Pollock and Clyfford Still.  


His close friend, and contemporary at the Slade, Kyffin Williams, has observed: 'Leo was a natural artist who certainly lived in an artist's world of his own. It was lucky that not only was he obsessional but also because he had a very considerable talent. When he drew he seemed to disregard the detail that makes things look real, in order to create the essence...'

(Introduction in Andrew Lambirth, et. al., A Passion to Paint, Leo Davy, 1923-1987, London, pp.6-7).