Sir William Gillies

CBE, RSA, RA, PPRSW Born: 1898
Place of Birth: Haddington
Died: 1973

Possibly because he was so prolific, and his work of a consistently high standard, Sir William Gillies is still underrated in the context of Modern British Art. The fact that he favoured the watercolour medium, too, may be a factor. Born in Haddington, he trained and taught at Edinburgh College of Art, latterly as a much-loved and influential principal. He was a great mentor for many of the next generation of the Edinburgh School. He had studied in Paris in 1923 with Andre Lhote, which he found unconducive, but visited exhibitions and sketched widely when possible. On his return, the following year, it was clear from his own pioneering landscape work that he was aware of the European avant garde. He was similarly galvanised by exhibitions of Munch and Klee at the SSA in Edinburgh in the early 1930s. Gillies loved to drive, rapidly, in his Alvis or on motorcycles, and toured widely in pursuit of subject matter. He could produce several large watercolours a day, en plein air, while his great friend John Maxwell agonized over his work nearby. Generally, though, Gillies depicted the Border country, which was within easy reach of his home in Temple. A series of Fife fishing villages in the 50s is particularly fine. Early on, he had produced a number of powerful yet sensitive figure studies, of family and friends, and (inspired in part by Braque) would later embark on a series of tabletop still life studio compositions of great vision and quality. A supreme Colourist, he was also in complete command when working tonally. Gillies had a long and fruitful relationship with The Scottish Gallery, which continues to this day in the secondary market.

We are actively looking for artwork by William Gillies. If you have any works you are interested in selling please contact The Gallery.


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