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Does a picture paint a thousand words? Come along to our colourful and entertaining family-friendly exhibition to explore the stories hidden within some of our fantastic paintings. Think about what you can see or how they make you feel. Then fire up your imagination and use your powers of detection to create your own stories. With lots of lovely paintings and other interesting items to inspire you, as well as quizzes and craft videos with some great ideas for simple things to make and do at home.


Art-tastic is a free exhibition taking place at St Andrews Museum from 19th December 2020. Visit https://www.onfife.com/venues/st-andrews-museum for information on our opening hours and how to book a visit.

19 artworks

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The White Chair
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Fife Council

The White Chair

Born in Edinburgh, Donald Moodie made his life in his home city. He served in the Royal Scots Guards during World War One (1914-18) and then taught for many years at Edinburgh College of Art, where he was very popular with his students.

His style has been described as, ‘elegant and lyrical.’ He often painted landscapes but here we have a wonderfully vivid celebration of flowers, set against the backdrop of a stark white chair.

The White Chair
Donald Moodie (1892–1963)
Oil on board
H 97 x W 76 cm
Fife Council

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Skipi Geo with Gulls
© the artist. Photo credit: Fife Council

Skipi Geo with Gulls

McLaren was the star graduate at Edinburgh College of Art in 1986. Having lived in Orkney for some time, he now lives just outside Kirkcaldy in the house where he grew up. Specialising in still lifes and seascapes, this painting, with its thick swathes of blue and gold and splashes of red and orange, is typical of his distinctive, expressionistic style. Orkney has a varied coastline ranging from high cliffs to sheltered beaches. Geos, such as Skipi Geo on Birsay, are long, narrow inlets carved by the sea.

Skipi Geo with Gulls
Peter McLaren (b.1964)
Oil on board
H 120 x W 120 cm
Fife Council

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Three Men in a Tub
© the artist. Photo credit: Fife Council

Three Men in a Tub

John Johnstone is a Dundee-based artist born in Forfar in 1941. He studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art from 1959-64 and then visited the capitals of Europe on a major travelling scholarship. Johnstone was a part time lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art for many years and is a regular exhibitor at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Scottish Society of Artists.

Working in the figurative style, he writes “My paintings seem to be expressing something either serious or amusing about life. They depict people acting out minor dramas. Gesture, composition, characterisation and setting are important. There is an element of gravity in them, but the humorous side probably eclipses that aspect."

Three Men in a Tub
John Johnstone (b.1941)
Acrylic on board
H 34.5 x W 30 cm
Fife Council

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School Orchestra
© the artist. Photo credit: Fife Council

School Orchestra

Tim Cockburn is an artist and printmaker working in Pittenweem, Fife. His subjects are scenes from everyday life, minutely observed and vividly represented.

School Orchestra
Tim Cockburn (b.1955)
Oil on canvas
H 64 x W 100 cm
Fife Council

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The Links Market
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: Fife Council

The Links Market

The Links Market in Kirkcaldy started out as a yearly fair in Easter week, lasting three days in the Linktown of Abbotshall. A market with entertainment at the fringes, it was an opportunity for traders from outside the town to sell their goods. Nowadays it’s a huge affair, bringing showmen from across Britain and Europe and taking over the town’s seafront area.

The Links Market 1980
Peter Smith (1937–2013)
Oil on canvas
H 75.5 x W 75.5 cm
Fife Council

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Curlers on Kilconquhar Loch
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Fife Council

The Curlers

John McGhie was born in Lesmahagow, near Lanark. The son of a grocer, he studied in Glasgow, London and Paris and is best known for his seascapes and depictions of coastal life. Commissioned by Major James Scott-Davidson the painting depicts the members of the Hercules Curling Club – L to R John Foggo, Reverend Alexander Legge, David Bowman, Major James Scott-Davidson, Sir Ralph Anstruther and Colonel Anstruther. Kilconquhar Loch is now designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Curlers on Kilconquhar Loch 1905
John McGhie (1867–1952)
Oil on canvas
H 69.7 x W 89.5 cm
Fife Council

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Winter
Photo credit: Fife Council

Peter Wishart was an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy known for painting landscapes and seascapes, using a broad style which may have been influenced by the later work of McTaggart. His expressionist paintings capture the effect of the weather using rich colours and broad brushstrokes.

Winter
Peter Wishart (1846–1932)
Oil on board
H 24 x W 31 cm
Fife Council

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Low Lighthouse, Isle of May
© the artist. Photo credit: Fife Council

Born in Dunfermline Cook attended Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art from 1979-84. He has won numerous awards and his work has been described as, ‘immediate, raw and compelling’. He typically uses thick swathes of bright colour to create dramatic effect. Here we see the waves surging around the rocky crags of the Isle of May, with the bright twin beams of the lighthouse shining out like a beacon against the darkness.

The Isle of May sits in the Firth of Forth, about five miles off the coast of mainland Scotland. A National Nature Reserve, in early summer the towering cliffs are crammed with nesting seabirds. The island is also home to a large seal population.

Low Lighthouse, Isle of May
David Mackie Cook (b.1957)
Oil on canvas
H 125 x W 102 cm
Fife Council

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Clouds and Hill
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Fife Council

Clouds and Hill

This beautiful and enigmatic painting is one of a pair dating from the 1970s, the other work being ‘Shreds and Shards.’ They were bequeathed to our collection by the Scottish Arts Council in 1997.

Clouds and Hill
John Alexander
Oil on canvas
H 74.3 x W 74.5 cm
Fife Council

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Kilrenny, Fife
© by permission of the artist's family. Photo credit: Fife Council

Kilrenny, Fife

Sir William MacTaggart studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1918-21. He was a lifelong friend of William Gillies, with whom he shared a studio, and an influential figure in the Scottish art world, becoming President of the Royal Scottish Academy.

MacTaggart was the grandson the great Scottish painter William McTaggart. He was active in bringing the work of leading foreign artists to Edinburgh. In the 1930s alone he helped the Society of Scottish Artists secure exhibitions of the work of Edvard Munch, Paul Klee and Max Ernst and the Surrealists.

The Munch exhibition in 1931 made a huge impression on MacTaggart, marking the beginning of an interest in Expressionism and a move into using intense colour applied in thick layers.

Kilrenny, Fife 1953
William MacTaggart (1903–1981)
Oil on canvas
H 59 x W 74 cm
Fife Council

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The Magpie
Photo credit: Fife Council

The Magpie

Edwin J Alexander was born in Edinburgh and studied at Edinburgh School of Art. His father was the well-known artist Robert Alexander, a close friend of Glasgow Boy, Joseph Crawhall. The Alexanders visited Crawhall at his house in Tangier and young Edwin was greatly influenced by Crawhall’s work.

Alexander studied in Paris in the early 1890s, then spent some years living on a houseboat on the River Nile in Egypt. On returning to Scotland he lived in Inveresk, East Lothian where he kept exotic birds in an aviary in his garden and made frequent sketching trips to Edinburgh Zoo. He is considered to be one of the finest animal and bird painters of his day.

The Magpie 1897
Edwin John Alexander (1870–1926)
Oil on linen
H 40.7 x W 56.6 cm
Fife Council

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A Basset Hound
Photo credit: Fife Council

A Basset Hound

Born in Ayrshire, Alexander was apprenticed to a painter and decorator in Irvine. His employer also taught him to paint landscapes and he went on to find employment in the workshops of the Royal Museum, Edinburgh, where he honed his skills as painter in oils. He became best known as a painter of rural scenes and animals, especially dog and horse portraits. He had seven children from two marriages, including artist Edwin Alexander and sculptor Martin Alexander. He is buried in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.

A Basset Hound 1901
Robert L. Alexander (1840–1923)
Oil on canvas
H 34 x W 28.5 cm
Fife Council

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My House Is My Castle
Photo credit: Fife Council

My House Is My Castle

Born near Kilwinning, Ayrshire, Alexander was apprenticed to a painter and decorator in Irvine. His employer also taught him to paint landscapes and he went on to find employment in the workshops of the Royal Museum, Edinburgh, where he honed his skills as painter in oils. He became best known as a painter of rural scenes and animals, especially dog and horse portraits. He had seven children from two marriages, including artist Edwin Alexander and sculptor Martin Alexander. He is buried in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.

My House Is My Castle 1898
Robert L. Alexander (1840–1923)
Oil on canvas
H 82 x W 105 cm
Fife Council

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Baba and Billy
Photo credit: Fife Council

Baba and Billy

Born in Dundee, Duncan worked as an illustrator for two of the city’s newspapers before deciding to become a painter. Heavily influenced by the early medieval art of Scotland and Ireland, he is associated with a group of artists known as the Celtic Revivalists, part of the wider Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Much of his later works – painted panels and altarpieces – were commissioned for religious buildings. He also produced some of the finest stained-glass windows in Scotland. This is a very personal painting – a portrait of Duncan’s daughter Vivian, known as ‘Baba’. Born in 1915, she moved to South Africa with her mother in the early 1920s. She later returned to Edinburgh to live with her father.

Baba and Billy 1920
John Duncan (1866–1945)
Tempera on canvas
H 61 x W 45.5 cm
Fife Council

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Limekilns and Charlestown
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Fife Council

Limekilns and Charlestown

Charlestown and Limekilns are villages in Fife, situated about a mile apart, around three miles from Dunfermline. Limekilns is named for the limestone industry – kilns fuelled by charcoal and then coal converted the local limestone to quicklime, used as a mortar for stone buildings. The quicklime was shipped all over the east of Scotland. In 1750 the industry moved a mile or so down the road to Charlestown. The huge industrial kilns built there were in production until 1956.

Limekilns and Charlestown 1988
J. W. Downie (active 1973–1990s)
Oil on board
H 37.2 x W 47.3 cm
Fife Council

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By the Harbour, Crail
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: Fife Council

By the Harbour, Crail

Born in 1923 in Leeds, McIntyre studied as a dentist at the Glasgow Dental Hospital whilst taking evening classes at Glasgow School of Art. He is best known for his vivid landscapes, mostly of Scotland and Wales. He painted largely en plein air (outdoors), working quickly, often adapting figures and buildings into a few simple blocks of bold colour.

By the Harbour, Crail
Donald McIntyre (1923–2009)
Acrylic on board
H 29 x W 39 cm
Fife Council

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Memories of a Polish Paratrooper
© the artist. Photo credit: Fife Council

Memories of a Polish Paratrooper

A graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, Wrightson’s paintings are usually influenced by fairytales, films, cartoons and children’s books. This particular painting was created in 2006 for the exhibition ‘Past/Present’, which featured contemporary artists responding to objects from museum collections in Fife. Wrightson’s painting was inspired by her interaction with objects relating to Polish servicemen, including the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade, stationed in Fife during World War Two. Objects depicted include an English/Polish phrasebook, photographs, a tin of foot powder, a pair of binoculars, medals, shoulder flashes and an identity tag.

Memories of a Polish Paratrooper 2006
Marie Louise Wrightson (b.1972)
Oil on panel
H 110 x W 154 cm
Fife Council

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Regatta on the Grand Canal, Venice
© Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums. Photo credit: Fife Council

Regatta on the Grand Canal, Venice

James McBey was born in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire. Largely self-taught, he is probably best known for his etchings. He was an official war artist in Egypt during World War One (1914-18) and went on to become a notable portrait artist. He was commissioned to paint a number of famous figures, including T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and music hall star, Sir Harry Lauder.

Regatta on the Grand Canal, Venice 1925
James McBey (1883–1959)
Oil on canvas
H 112 x W 150 cm
Fife Council

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An Old Street
© The Estate of L.S. Lowry. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2021. Photo credit: Fife Council

Lowry was born in Stretford, Manchester. In 1910, while working as a clerk for the local council, he enrolled as an evening student at the Municipal College of Art. A reclusive figure, by the 1920s Lowry had developed a very personal style. Ignored by the art establishment for years, he was suddenly ‘discovered’ at the age of 51 and had his first London show in 1938. In 1939 his beloved mother died and he produced very little work until the later 1940s. From then on, regular exhibitions made him something of a local celebrity. Critics continued to pay little attention but his work was adored by the public. Lowry held down a full-time office job, retiring aged 65. He is best-known for his paintings of local scenes and 'matchstick' figures.

An Old Street 1937
Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887–1976)
Oil on panel
H 51 x W 35.5 cm
Fife Council