A new body of work by one of the leading contemporary painters in the UK is to go on display for the first time.

The paintings by Alison Watt, best known for her intricate large-scale representations of drapery and folds, will be exhibited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) in Edinburgh from July.

Alison Watt: A Portrait Without Likeness explores the Scottish artist’s continuing fascination with portraits by 18th-century painter Allan Ramsay.

It comes after a long period of study into his paintings, drawings and sketchbooks from his extensive archive held by the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS).

Anne Bayne portrait
Ramsay’s portrait of his wife Anne Bayne is one of those studied by Watt (NGS/PA)

Watt said: “I’ve been looking at Ramsay’s portraits of his wives, Anne Bayne and Margaret Lindsay, for longer than I can remember.

“There is no doubt that these portraits are what first drew me to his work and I’ve looked at them intently over the years.

“It is not only exciting, but also a great privilege to show alongside his paintings at the SNPG.”

Born in Greenock, Watt came to prominence in the late 1980s while a student at Glasgow School of Art after winning the annual competition of the National Portrait Gallery in London.

She has since exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally.

Alison Watt - Anne
Anne, by Alison Watt (Alison Watt/PA)

In 2000, she became the youngest artist to be offered a solo show at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art with her exhibition Shift.

Her work features in many significant collections including the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, the National Portrait Gallery, London, the US Embassy, London, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, the Arts Council Collection, Aberdeen Art Gallery and the British Council.

Christopher Baker, NGS director of Scottish art and portraiture, said: “This remarkable group of paintings take Alison’s work in a new direction.

“Hovering between the genres of still life and portraiture, these beautiful new works use aspects of Ramsay’s paintings for their starting point.

“But although they may have been inspired by the art of the past, this is a form of study that goes far beyond mere admiration or the modest hope, in her own words, ‘that some of the greatness might rub off on me’.

“In the SNPG, Alison’s subtle responses to Ramsay’s work create an extraordinary conversation between two exceptional Scottish artists.”

The exhibition opens on July 17 and will run until January 9.

It will then travel to the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery from January 29 until April 2.