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Scottish Artists and Painters by James Shields
James McIntosh Patrick


James McIntosh PatrickJames McIntosh Patrick, generally recognized as Scotland's foremost landscape painter of the 20th century was born in Dundee in 1907. From an early age he displayed a keen interest in art and was encouraged by his architect father who was himself an able amateur watercolourist.

He enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art in 1924 and studied painting under Maurice Greiffenhagen. At this time Patrick continued his interest in etching which was very popular in the 1920's and was to prove a source of income for him during the Depression years.

By 1930 he had made painting expeditions to France and Italy and had returned to oil painting rather than making sketches for his etchings. Although he had won prizes for portraiture at Glasgow his real love of nature and the landscape began to shine and by the early 1930's he began one of his best known large landscapes in oil, "The Three Sisters, Glencoe", which was completed in 1934  The composition used in this painting was to become a Patrick trademark over the years, the artist using a lane or road to lead the viewer into the picture. While nothing new in itself Patrick used this technique successfully in many of his oils in the following five decades.

Interestingly at this stage in his career he painted in the studio from sketches made on site, something that he was to change after the war.

He continued refining his technique and by 1936 had several paintings hung at the Royal Academy. In 1940 he was called up for military service and became an officer in the Camouflage Corps. He served in North Africa and Italy helping to make life difficult for German reconnaissance aircraft whose job was to photograph troop and tank numbers. Interestingly, and unbekown to Patrick, was the fact that another artist who had attended the Glasgow School of Art a few years after Patrick was also commissioned into the Camouflage Corps and served in the Far East theatre. Alastair Maitland, a Glaswegian who was to win several national awards for landscape painting in the late 1930's and who remembered Patrick through his reputation at Glasgow as a student, spent a part of the war in Burma where he sketched and painted studies of the human side of war. I met Alastair in 1989 in Sand Lake, Ontario where he was still painting and he recalled Patrick's tremendous natural ability and enthusiasm.

After the war Patrick returned to Dundee with his wife and family and began painting outdoors rather than in the studio which he had upstairs in his house. I visited his studio several times. It was a large converted bedroom facing south with terrific views over the River Tay to the hills of Fife. Two large studio easels dominated the right hand side of the studio and several paintings waiting to be "edited" were propped around the walls. Patrick's home was full of paintings in his later years, pieces that he had collected over the decades, from 17th century Dutch still lives to more contemporary landscapes.

By the 1950's he had perfected his style and technique in outdoor landscape painting and began recording his beloved Angus countryside on canvas, working in all seasons and all weather conditions. His style was traditional and he didn't have much time for "contemporary" interpretations of landscape. "The Tay Bridge from My Studio Window", painted in 1947, is probably the best known of Patrick's works and illustrates the detailed style which he had finally decided upon as suiting his temperament best. He was elected a full member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1957. His reputation grew throughout the sixties and seventies and by the time I met him in the early eighties he was a giant in the Scottish art world. He had spent some time teaching during his later career and I was privileged to take "advice" from the master on many occasions when he was accompanied on his teaching classes by one of his most oustanding pupils, Joe McIntyre of Dundee.

James McIntosh Patrick was an exemplar in his life and work and imparted his knowledge freely. He was without doubt the most able painter that Scotland has produced in the 20th century and stands on equal terms with most of Europe's best landscape painters of that era. He died in Dundee in 1998. 

Some of his work captured through the Web
[Note: Due to these being captured through the web the quality won't be as good as the originals and the colours may well be lighter or darker but at least you'll get an idea of his work.]

"Springtime in Eskdale" is an extremely detailed landscape painting by the Scottish artist James McIntosh Patrick. It depicts "The Crooks" in Eskdalemuir, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, birthplace of the famous engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834). Patrick painted it in 1934 to mark the centenary of his death.

The painting shows people visiting a cottage, a farmer ploughing a field and a river in the middle ground. Light spreads evenly throughout the scene, except for a long shadow in the foreground, suggesting that the artist looked down on the landscape from on high.

Patrick loved to paint out of doors, believing that his landscapes could encourage people to appreciate nature: "I don't suppose there is much sentimentality about my paintings, but I have a deep feeling that Nature is immensely dignified when you are out of doors. I am struck by the dignity of everything."

Read more of this review at The Liverpool Museum.


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