Sir William Gillies | Still Life, Pot with Daisies, c.1952

12 May 2020

This May, My Border Landscape, features a curated selection of Border landscapes by Sir William Gillies. You can discover further works from Gillies here, encompassing other landscape subjects and still life, as discussed below.

Sir William Gillies | Still Life, Pot with Daisies, c.1952
Sir William Gillies, Still Life, Pot with Daisies, c.1952, oil on canvas, 58.5 x 112 cm

My house is absolutely full of still life objects which I've collected over the years and often now I merely start off with a notion, a symbol of one or two of these objects. They seem to group themselves in my mind automatically and my picture is really an extension of this notion...

Sir William Gillies, 1970
Sir William Gillies | Still Life, Pot with Daisies, c.1952
Sir William Gillies in his Edinburgh College of Art studio, c.1952. Still Life, Pot with Daisies hangs in the centre of the wall. Royal Scottish Academy of Art (William Gillies Bequest).

In the modern period, when the painter was no longer obliged to specialise, practice often divided between studio and landscape. Willie Gillies was undoubtedly happiest outside taking direct inspiration from the living, changing environment. In his studio at the College and at home in Temple he was obliged to design his subject, to apply his intellectual resources to make a satisfying arrangement. In this his guide is Georges Braque whose work eschews the seductions of brilliant colour and prefers the rigour of design to expressionism.

Sir William Gillies | Still Life, Pot with Daisies, c.1952
Sir William Gillies, Still Life, Pot with Daisies, c.1952 (detail)

Sometimes a sumptuous flower arrangement will get the treatment it’s freshness demands but more often, as here with Still Life, Pot with Daisies, flowers are a limited element, complying to a severely limited colour scheme, subservient to composition alongside the simple pots, often those throne by his sister Emma. In the studio Gillies shares much with the English painter Christopher Wood and perhaps with Ben Nicholson also as he pursues a grainy aesthetic which seeks to allow the painted surface to comprise an element of the expression of Roger Fry’s significant form. It is worth noting that his own, adapted, hand-finished frame (seen in the photo above) is an extension of this same aesthetic, allowing the work of art a third dimension, to be understood as an object.

Sir William Gillies | Still Life, Pot with Daisies, c.1952
Sir William Gillies, Still Life, Pot with Daisies, c.1952, oil on canvas, 58.5 x 112 cm
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