The generation game?

The conjunction of two exhibitions this spring from different members of the Goudie family – Lachlan and his father Sandy – set me thinking about the variety and quality of artistic families in Scotland. Thirty years ago I did an exhibition on this theme for The Fine Art Society – perhaps it’s time to revisit the idea. Here’s just a few of them, dynasties first: the Nasmyths, Faeds, the McTaggarts, the Waltons (lots of them), the Peploes, the Redpath/Michies, Morroccos, McIntosh Patricks, Patersons, Scoullers; and then the husband/wife teams: Fergussons, Shanks, Donaldsons, Armours, Houston-Blackadders, Sinclair-Borland, McKenzie Smiths. There are lots more.

You don’t have to look at this list for long to notice at least several quite distinct trends – the decline in younger scions taking up painting (as opposed to making ephemeral installations or wielding a camera); and how mortality has created a huge vacuum in contemporary Scottish painting.

The roll-call makes depressing reading: in the last twenty years or so we have lost (in no particular order) Robin Philipson, David Donaldson, John Houston, Danny Ferguson, John Cunningham, Sandy Goudie, John Bellany, Carlo Rossi, Mike Scott, George Devlin, Bill Birnie, David Morrison, Margot Sandeman, Mary Armour, William Baillie, Ian Fleming, Jack Firth, Bet Low, Bill Littlejohn, David McClure, James McIntosh Patrick, James D Robertson, Alberto Morrocco, Bill Crosbie…

There are still painters from the older generation hard at work – John Byrne and Duncan Shanks seem to have boundless stamina (and Duncan will be showing with us in July this year) – and there is a definite growing interest in them and their near-contemporaries whose work is now very much in short supply.

We have represented many of the artists listed above – almost a golden age of painting in Scotland, through the 50s to the 90s. As you might expect, in their personalities they were as different from each other as in their painting. Sandy Goudie was one of the more flamboyant, voluble and unpredictable of this impressive group. A very talented draughtsman, Goudie was not afraid to explore grand ideas, turning them into huge projects such as his group of paintings and decorations for Brittany Ferries flagship, Bretagne,  and his expansive Tam o’Shanter series.


o'shanter 2

Goudie is to be the first in a continuing series of exhibitions which will explore the contributions these painters have made over the last half-century. For some viewers there will be an opportunity to re-connect with painters who no longer fill the galleries and exhibitions with their latest creations; for others it may lead to a voyage of discovery of a – strangely – bygone era of Scottish painting