Alison Watt 

“The still life can be very intimate. And because of its close connection to us, how we view it is continually being redefined. It continues to evolve because it reflects us. So, by its very nature, it is linked to the portrait. The still life is a portrait without likeness.”

Alison Watt

Distinguished by deft realism, Alison Watt’s still lifes exude contemplative stillness, intimacy, and quietude. Totems to the act, and the art, of looking at painting, her canvases are informed by perception, memory, and art historical study of artists such as Allan Ramsay, Jean-Siméon Chardin, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Watt’s early practice centered on figural representation, including self-portraits and life studies. She turned to depictions of draped fabrics in the 1990s, in part after witnessing the imprints left behind on the white sheet by her departing life model. These folds, patterns, and impressions represented, in the artist’s words, “shadows of what had been before” and symbolized the absence and the presence of the body. Human resonance and implied narrative are felt throughout her still life paintings, which feature objects—including white cloths, roses, feathers, folded notes, hoses, and satin bows—in isolation, removed from their established meanings and contexts. Her work radiates light and finds form and subtlety in shadow, resulting in intimate tableaux that are familiar yet undiscovered, personal yet alluring.

Born in 1965 in Greenock, Scotland, Alison Watt (OBE) completed her under- and postgraduate studies at the Glasgow School of Art (1983–88) and garnered critical acclaim after receiving the 1987 John Player Portrait Award, presented by the National Portrait Gallery, London, as a student. Her monumental quadriptych Still (2004) hangs in the Memorial Chapel of Old Saint Paul’s Church, Edinburgh, in remembrance of the fallen soldiers in World War I. Beginning in 2006, she was an artist in residence at the National Gallery, London, for four years. Solo exhibitions of the artist’s work have taken place at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (2021–22); Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, England (2018–19); Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Scotland (2014); National Gallery, London (2008); Dulwich Picture Gallery, London (2002); and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2000, then the youngest artist to feature in a solo presentation at the museum), among others. Her paintings can be found in permanent collections including those of the Aberdeen Art Gallery, Scotland; Arts Council Collection, London; British Council Collection, London; National Portrait Gallery, London; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; and the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.


    • Alison Watt: Breathing In
    • 19 East 64th Street
      May 9 - June 28, 2024
    • Lévy Gorvy Dayan is delighted to present Breathing In, the first United States exhibition for the celebrated British painter Alison Watt, whose still lifes marry contemporary concepts with the painterly language of classic European portraiture. Opening May 9, 2024, Breathing In will feature a host of new and never-before-seen paintings and coincide with Lévy Gorvy Dayan’s presentation of Watt’s significant canvas Peale (2018) at the Independent Art Fair. Watt’s paintings luxuriate in the details from art historical portraiture that serve as encapsulations of the sitter...

      Read More