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To celebrate the City Art Centre turning 40 our Learning and Programmes Manager, Margaret Rose Findlay has curated an exhibition featuring choices from past members of staff who had a key role in the City Art Centre and guest curators and artists who have been closely connected to us over the years. We have a variety of classics in this exhibition with people choosing their favourites and telling us why. It is always delightful to get personal insights into our collection. Some old familiars are here, but some surprising choices have been highlighted.

18 artworks
  • 'The Flight of the Swallows' by John Henry Lorimer (1856–1936)

    Margaret Rose Findlay is Learning and Programmes Manager and curator of this digital exhibition


    I have worked with many paintings from the City Art Centre's collection over the years but this remains one of my firm favourites. Lorimer was born in Edinburgh, and was educated at Edinburgh Academy, Edinburgh University and in 1875 at the Royal Scottish Academy. This painting shows an elegant Edwardian Interior. The sun is setting at the end of the day and this stylish family watch as the swallows leave at the end of summer - symbolising change, decay and the loss of innocence. We live in a world where change is inevitable, as 2020 has shown us all! I love the gentle muted colours, light and shade and message in this lovely work.

    The Flight of the Swallows 1906
    John Henry Lorimer (1856–1936)
    Oil on canvas
    H 115 x W 89.6 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    The Flight of the Swallows
    Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • 'Christmas' by Margaret Thomas (1916–2016)

    Tessa Asquith-Lamb, Artist


    I love 'Christmas' by Margaret Thomas. This nostalgic, treasure-filled still life embodies all I love about the festive season, old decorations, wrapped presents, wooden dolls and the sparkle of tinsel. I also like how the tiny tree is going a bit brown, and yet the cheery streamers and baubles cover this up. There is a quiet poetry and intensity to the tiny objects gathered together. I have collected antique trimmings for years and often put them in my own etchings and paintings as emblems of optimism and happiness in dark times. I love leading workshops at Christmas, and hopefully some of the lovely things made with my groups over the years will earn a place on the Christmas trees of the future.

    Christmas
    Margaret Thomas (1916–2016)
    Oil & charcoal on wax paper
    H 91.5 x W 70.5 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Christmas
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • Pachmann at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh

    Sandra Marwick ex Keeper of Education


    In the current world crisis this painting is a reminder of what I have been missing with the closure of concert venues such as Edinburgh’s iconic Usher Hall. The painting records the pianist Vladimir de Pachmann, celebrated for his interpretations of the works of Chopin, speaking to his audience. Pachmann had an eccentric performance style which included gestures, muttering and addressing his listeners. By painting the scene from an off-centre angle in the grand circle of the auditorium the artist is making a reference to the quirky mannerisms of his subject. The Orcadian painter Stanley Cursiter, Keeper of the National Galleries of Scotland from 1930-1948, produced many fine landscapes and portraits.

    Pachmann at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh
    Stanley Cursiter (1887–1976)
    Oil on canvas
    H 86.5 x W 101.6 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Pachmann at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh
    © estate of Stanley Cursiter. All rights reserved, DACS 2020. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill by John Wilson Ewbank (c.1799–1847)

    Dorothy Marsh, former Conservation Officer


    Calton Hill, its buildings and monuments have a special place in my heart, as I often worked there. This painting depicts a grandiose event stage-managed by writer Sir Walter Scott, viewed looking down to Edinburgh from the top of the Calton Hill, with the Old Town to the left and the New Town to the right. Crowds, dressed in their finest, are everywhere, on the hillside and on rooftops, vying to get a glimpse of their King. Some buildings have changed but crowds on Calton Hill especially for big events like Beltane and Hogmanay remain a feature of the city.

    The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill, 1822
    John Wilson Ewbank (c.1799–1847)
    Oil on canvas
    H 150.5 x W 240 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill, 1822
    Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • View of Edinburgh by William Delacour (1700–1767)

    Derek Janes, former Assistant City Curator


    This painting shows the Church and College of Holy Trinity founded by Mary of Gueldres, the Queen of King James II c.1460. When the railway into Edinburgh was built in the 1840s, the church was demolished. Lord Cockburn said
    “this church was sacrificed, not to the necessities, but to the mere convenience of a railway. The railway had been finished and was in action. But it wanted a few yards of more room for its station, and these it got by the destruction of the finest piece of old architecture in Edinburgh.” The stones were numbered and in 1872 the building was partly re-erected in Chalmers Close, where it still stands, a remnant of one of the finest gothic buildings in Edinburgh.

    View of Edinburgh 1759
    William Delacour (1700–1767)
    Oil on canvas
    H 108.2 x W 229.1 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    View of Edinburgh
    Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • Nelson Mandela (1918–2013), at Nineteen 1986 by Lex Braes

    Herbert Coutts, City Curator, 1971-99 & Director of Culture and Leisure, 1999-2007


    Buying art for a public collection can get you in trouble! On a visit to the Demarco Gallery in 1986, I saw this large powerful work. A Government purchase grant was agreed and its acquisition approved. It was when the work was put on display in the Chambers that the balloon went up. Some Councillors were outraged that a portrait of an imprisoned "terrorist" had been added to the city's collection. The noise was so great that the Secretary of State for Scotland demanded an explanation. He backed off when informed that Government funding had been involved. Years later Nelson Mandela was acknowledged internationally as an outstanding statesman.

    Nelson Mandela (1918–2013), at Nineteen 1986
    Lex Braes (b.1956)
    Oil on canvas
    H 208.6 x W 175.6 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Nelson Mandela (1918–2013), at Nineteen
    © the artist. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • The Diggers' Triptych

    Sandy Topp, former Head of Design


    The Diggers depicts the Edinburgh pub The Athletic Arms. It’s been sandwiched between 2 graveyards since 1897 and was the ‘watering hole’ for the gravediggers who worked there, hence the more commonly used name. The Diggers is in many ways the quintessential Scottish traditional pub that Scots of a certain generation will recognise. I love this painting for what it means to me personally. The rallying cry at the start of every Five/Six Nations season “See you in Diggers” – a cry made never in confidence as so many variables could deny you the chance of meeting up with far-flung pals prior to the match at Murrayfield. Even without these pals the warmth and bonhomie was always there.

    The Diggers' Triptych
    Maggie Milne (b.1957)
    Oil on canvas
    H 122 x W 76.5 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    The Diggers' Triptych
    © the artist. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • Final Instructions before Take-Off by Pat Douthwaite (1934–2002)

    Alison Chisholm was Curator of the Travelling Gallery from 1996 - 2015


    Pat Douthwaite had a significant influence on my time as a student in the painting department of Glasgow School of Art. I was encouraged to study Douthwaite’s work by one of my tutors at GSA, painter Jim Hardie. A pilot himself, he was a big fan of Amy Johnson - the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia (1930). This painting is one of a series of works Douthwaite did of Amy Johnson, during a period when she created other works of strong historical women many also regarded as thinly veiled self-portraits. I love the simplicity of this painting, the arms as wings outstretched, the stylish aviator coat and glasses adding to the skull like features.

    Final Instructions before Take-Off 1976
    Pat Douthwaite (1934–2002)
    Oil on canvas
    H 152.3 x W 152.3 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Final Instructions before Take-Off
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • 'Study for a Monument' by William Brotherston (b.1943)

    Paul McAuley former Conservation Officer with responsibility for statues and monuments in the City


    As a conservator I always want to understand how artworks were inspired and created. This simple bronze pyramidal form topped by a cylinder inspired by a medieval church object - the ‘A of Charlemagne’ - belies the skill of the artist and the technical complexities of casting bronze. (The lost wax process involves creating a model from simple wax sheets then encased in a plaster-like ‘Ludo’ mould; after the wax is burned out molten metal is poured in taking on the form.) This artwork is pleasing to the eye when viewed from all angles, its surface texture, the colour of the copper alloy metal.

    Study for a Monument 1977
    William Brotherston (b.1943)
    Bronze
    H 40 x W 27.5 x D 20.8 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Study for a Monument
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • Summer Day: Sleat (o/c 1070) by Jon Schueler (1916–1992)

    Murdo Macdonald is Professor Emeritus of History of Scottish Art at the University of Dundee. He has a long relationship with the City Art Centre


    In 1962 the American painter Jon Schueler wrote: ‘I realize that the Scottish landscape is the only one that I have a real passion for’. That passion is remarkable. Schueler is well known as a second-wave Abstract expressionist based in New York, yet some of his most significant work was done in Scotland from his house overlooking the Sound of Sleat. He treads that fascinating edge where abstraction and landscape become one and the same. The light and colour of the West Highlands has inspired artists from those who made the illuminated manuscripts of Iona to the Scottish Colourists.

    Summer Day: Sleat (o/c 1070)
    Jon Schueler (1916–1992)
    Oil on canvas
    H 175 x W 192 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Summer Day: Sleat (o/c 1070)
    © Jon Schueler estate. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • Kirn Pier, Winter by Ian Fleming (1906–1994)

    Christina Jansen, The Scottish Gallery


    There are many artists who are underrated and Ian Fleming is one of them. As an artist/art educator he influenced generations of artists from Glasgow School of Art and then later as Principal at Gray’s School of Art. This painting of Kirn Pier, Dunoon is an ambitious, modernist painting which combines a landscape, seascape, industry and social history. It’s got everything going on! I particularly like the contrasting pink and red rocky foreground, the puffer, the bold outlines of The Pier and the brooding sky. From 1933-1948, The Pier was owned by a Mr Imrie and it cost 1p to get on or off. Puffers unloaded coal and there was a sweet shop at the foot of Kirn Brae which was run by Mrs McGuggan.

    Kirn Pier, Winter 1960
    Ian Fleming (1906–1994)
    Oil on canvas
    H 71.1 x W 91.9 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Kirn Pier, Winter
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • Muddy Pool by Duncan Shanks (b.1937)

    Fernando Pacheco Bellas, former Designer


    I love this work as it reflects very well a palette of intense and characteristic colours and at the same time it reminds us of the importance of keeping nature alive and clean. Muddy Pool, to me, is a very sensitive and reactionary work about the industrialization process in natural spaces and the consequences that this process later brings to our lives. This work has its own movement and a fluidity in its composition that makes the viewer concentrate on the centre of it, causing an adverse reaction to what is expected in a work on nature. The end result, when the water flows in the lower part, reminds us that nature always replenishes itself, no matter how difficult we make it.

    Muddy Pool
    Duncan Shanks (b.1937)
    Acrylic on paper
    H 148 x W 116.2 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Muddy Pool
    © the artist. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • Kimono Study by William McCance (1894–1970)

    Christine Vincenti, Trainee Museum Curator and Marketing Officer 1983 - 1996


    I love so many paintings in the City Art Collection so it is hard to choose but one of my favourite paintings has to be ‘Kimono Study’ by William McCance. This painting is special to me as it reminds me so much of my sister who used to be an artist’s model in her younger days. The model in this painting is her doppelgänger and we still find it hard to believe it is not my sister. My sister is passionate about Japanese culture and has a collection of kimonos. I have a framed postcard of this painting.

    Kimono Study 1919
    William McCance (1894–1970)
    Oil on canvas
    H 111.7 x W 76.2 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Kimono Study
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • Rest Time in the Life Class

    Susan Mansfield is an art critic for the Scotsman & Art Writer


    One of the battlegrounds for women artists at the turn of the 20th c. was the life room: while life drawing was essential to an artist’s training, it was seen as improper for young ladies to draw the naked human form. Johnstone, an outstanding painter who taught at Edinburgh College of Art 1914-1924, found an elegant solution: an all-female life class. Her painting invites us to glimpse what is accomplished in this private world. Having (to paraphrase Virginia Woolf) a room of their own, the women are drawing, resting, gossiping, discussing their work. They have room to explore, learn, disagree with one another, push out in new directions. They are becoming artists.

    Rest Time in the Life Class 1923
    Dorothy Johnstone (1892–1980)
    Oil on canvas
    H 121.5 x W 106.2 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Rest Time in the Life Class
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • The Bibliophilist's Haunt (Creech's Bookshop) by William Fettes Douglas (1822–1891)

    Bev Casebow was Curator at Museum of Childhood and Curator of Applied Art


    Those who know me won’t be surprised that I’ve chosen an image of a bookshop. I love books, and work in the National Library of Scotland. I wish this bookshop still existed; it looks like somewhere that I could spend many happy hours! I used to see this painting every day when I worked in the Museum of Edinburgh, and it seemed a natural extension of the wood-panelled interior of that building. I love the light and atmosphere in the painting, and the faces peering in at the window. William Creech (1745-1815) was the main publisher in Edinburgh for many years, and inherited his shop from the poet Allan Ramsay. It was located in the Royal Mile, close to St Giles.

    The Bibliophilist's Haunt (Creech's Bookshop) 1864
    William Fettes Douglas (1822–1891)
    Oil on canvas
    H 66.3 x W 86.7 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    The Bibliophilist's Haunt (Creech's Bookshop)
    Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • Happy Valley (I) by Moyna Flannigan (b.1963)

    Sorcha Carey, Director of Edinburgh Art Festival


    In Happy Valley I, we meet an elderly woman, pausing (or posing) with her dog. Dressed in an elegant ermine coat, oddly paired with stout walking shoes, she cuts an intriguing figure - her sharp outward gaze contrasting her dog’s rueful look. While researching genres of portraiture in an effort to critique them, and bring them into the contemporary world, Flannigan was especially drawn to the convention of portraying kings and nobles with their dogs – witness Goya and Velazquez. If portraits seek to fix and ground their subjects, this work occupies more ambiguous terrain. The inhabitants of Happy Valley float free of any reality, only finding their identity through paint.

    Happy Valley (I) 1999
    Moyna Flannigan (b.1963)
    Oil on linen
    H 200 x W 135 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    Happy Valley (I)
    © the artist. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • The Coal Yard by Kate Downie (b.1958)

    Jane Warrilow, Curator 1992–2003


    This work gives us a different view of Edinburgh. The artist has such a deft way with line and composition. I like that she places us not among the classical buildings and familiar views of the city but at the edge, in the coal yard, where the train wagons have arrived and lorries are being loaded, ready to leave when filled with fuel. At the top is Edinburgh’s skyline. We can make out one or two spires, and there’s the familiar shape of Salisbury Crags, and Arthur’s Seat. Yet the coal yard is centre stage, reminding us with our bird’s-eye view that these dirty, liminal spaces of activity are crucial to all cities. How important it is that artists choose to document such places in their work.

    The Coal Yard 1988
    Kate Downie (b.1958)
    Acrylic & coal dust on canvas
    H 170 x W 177.5 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    The Coal Yard
    © the artist. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council

  • The Blue Lamp by John Duncan Fergusson (1874–1961)

    Alice Strang, Curator & Art Historian


    The Blue Lamp by the Scottish Colourist John Duncan Fergusson is a magnificent example of twentieth-century Scottish art. Fergusson painted it in 1912 whilst living in Paris, where he was a ‘sociétaire’ of the progressive Salon d’Automne and a key figure in the celebrated Rhythm group of Anglo-American artists. Its bold colour, black outlining of form and ambitious composition show Fergusson’s awareness of – and contribution to – the latest developments in modern art. The Blue Lamp was acquired by Fergusson’s friend, the businessman and writer John Ressich, who gave it to the Scottish Modern Arts Association; they presented it to the City Art Centre in 1964.

    The Blue Lamp 1912
    John Duncan Fergusson (1874–1961)
    Oil on panel
    H 66 x W 57.2 cm
    Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council
    The Blue Lamp
    © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council, Scotland. Photo credit: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh – City of Edinburgh Council