Rare chance to enjoy Haddington artist

SBBN-03-07-14 Sir William Gillies
SBBN-03-07-14 Sir William Gillies

Art lovers are being given the rare opportunity to enjoy works by one of Scotland’s most distinguished and influential 20th century artists.

Sir William Gillies managed to achieve fame as a painter despite suffering the unimaginable trauma of being gassed and hospitalised in World War One.

Born in Haddington, the son of a Duns tailor, Gillies grew up above the family shop. He enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art in 1916 but his studies were cut short when he was conscripted to the Scottish Rifles and sent off to join millions of others on the battle fields of Europe.

Within a year he had been wounded, gassed and hospitalised—experiences he never referred to in later life.

In 1919, after the war had ended, he returned to his studies at the Edinburgh College of Art. He joined the faculty staff in 1925 and went on to become Head of Drawing and Painting before being appointed Principal of the College in 1961. He was knighted for his services to art in 1970.

Gillies was described by his students as an inspirational teacher, and he gained an international reputation for the College. He was also a prolific artist who always found time for his own work, producing over 2,000 works in his lifetime.

Now many of those are on show in his native Borders, at the Christopher Boyd Gallery in Old Gala House, Galashiels.

The works in the exhibition have been specially selected from the Gillies Bequest. Made by the artist before his death in 1973 to the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture, the bequest was heralded as the most significant ever given to an art institution by a single artist in Scottish collecting history.

Scottish Borders Council’s Visual Arts Officer, Elizabeth Hume said: “The paintings and drawings chosen for Old Gala House are all inspired by the Scottish Borders, one of Gillies’ favourite painting destinations.

“He used to motor down regularly to Berwickshire from his home in Temple to paint the landscapes of Coldingham and St Abbs. This is a rare opportunity to see the work of such an important Scottish artist on display in a Borders gallery.”

The exhibition runs until Sunday August 10. The gallery is open Monday to Saturday 10-4pm and Sundays 1-4pm. Admission is free.