By George Mair

IT is an intriguing painting of an isolated building in a forest, glimpsed through the trees, regarded as a masterpiece by one of the world's most sought-after living artists.

Now "Boiler House", an oil painting by Scottish artist Peter Doig, has proved just how much it is regarded in the arts community by selling for nearly £14 million at auction in London.

Edinburgh-born Doig, 61, painted Boiler House in 1993, the year before he was nominated for the Turner Prize.

Described as a “masterpiece from his seminal series of Concrete Cabins”, the 200 x 275cm painting depicts the coal boiler at Le Corbusier’s modernist Unité d’Habitation, in France, through a forest of trees - many of his works feature ethereal scenes, often with subjects by forests or lakes.

The painting was a highlight of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale, where it made £13,895,000.

The signed canvas was sold to an anonymous collector who placed the winning bid over the phone to one of Christie’s specialists.

Doig was born in Edinburgh, but has lived in Trinidad since 2002.

Boiler House is part of his famed “Concrete Cabin” series of 1991-96, for which he is best known.

The series is Doig’s portrayal of his experience when he travelled to take part in the restoration of Le Corbusier’s abandoned Unité d’Habitation at Briey-en-Forêt in northern France.

Doig first visited the property as a recent graduate in 1991, when he was part of a group of artists, architects and designers involved in the building’s restoration.

Built in 1957, and abandoned less than 20 years later, the Unité was one of the structures that proposed a new form of democratic living in post-War Europe, and has been described as one of the most important Modernist buildings of all time.

Doig’s encounter with the derelict Modernist utopia, seen through dense layers of trees, gave rise to a cycle of paintings based on his recollection of the event.

Doig has recalled: “The building took me by surprise as a piece of architecture.

"But it was not until I saw the photograph I had taken of the building through the trees that it became interesting. 

"That made me go back and look at it again.

“I was surprised by the way the building transformed itself from a piece of architecture into a feeling.

"It was all emotion suddenly.”

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, was a French architect and town planner, and pioneer of the International Style, who developed theories on functionalism, the use of new materials and industrial techniques, and the Modulor, a modular system of standard-sized units.

Doig, who graduated from Chelsea College of Arts in 1991 and then won the Whitechapel Artist Prize, setting him on the road to global recognition, is regarded as one of the most renowned living figurative painters.

Art critic Jonathan Jones said of him: "Amid all the nonsense, impostors and sheer trash that pass for art in the 21st century, Doig is a jewel of genuine imagination, sincere work and humble creativity.”

He has said of his own work: “There exists a tension between the often generic representation of a pastoral scene and the investment in my own experiences of the landscape.

“All of the paintings have an element of autobiography in them, but I resist making the autobiographical readings overly specific.” 

Several paintings by Doig have achieved eight figure sums at auction. 

The world record for a painting by the Scot was set in 2017 when his 1991 canvas “Rosedale” of a Toronto snowfall was sold for $28.8m (£22.1m).

His work "White Canoe” was estimated to fetch about £1m when it was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London, but sold for £5.7m, breaking the auction record for a living European artist.

He said later: “I didn’t expect anything like that. It suddenly gave me a great deal of recognition. It was not something I was after."

In 2016, a Chicago court ruled that Doig did not paint a landscape once valued at £7.6m. A former Canadian prison official, Robert Fletcher, had insisted he bought the painting - which is signed 'Peter Doige' - from Doig 40 yeras earlier. He sued Doig when the artist denied the work was his, which caused its value to plunge. The judge ruled it to be a case of mistaken identity after the real Peter Doige gave evidence.