The McKenzie Sisters


'The Road to Sorrento' by Alison McKenzie, 1934

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Winifred McKenzie (1905-2001)
Alison McKenzie (1907-1982)

Winifred and Alison McKenzie were the first to teach wood engraving at the Art College in Dundee. They were born in Bombay where their father worked in the family sawmill business (though he had originally trained as an architect with Charles Rennie Macintosh).

In 1923 Winifred enrolled in Drawing & Painting classes at Glasgow School of Art, where the lecturer Chica MacNab introduced her to the art of woodcuts. Alison followed shortly after and became one of the leading students in Design & Textiles. They completed their art training together at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London.

In 1940 the sisters moved to St Andrews, where they joined the artist Annabel Kidston in running a series of art classes for the allied forces stationed in the town during the war. Run under the auspices of the Committee for Education for the Forces, the classes proved extremely popular, particularly with the Polish soldiers, whose work was exhibited in 1944 at the National Gallery in Edinburgh.

Winifred joined the staff of Dundee College of Art in 1944, to teach wood engraving and composition. Alison joined her two years later on a job-share basis when their mother fell ill. They were popular and successful teachers, but their mother's declining health forced them to resign from the College in 1957, to care for her full-time. The wood engraving course was taken over by Jozef Sekalski, another Polish artist who twice escaped from Nazi imprisonment during his attempts to reach Britain.

This exhibition is drawn from the collections of the University of Dundee Museum Collections and the St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum. As well as work by the McKenzie sisters it also includes pieces created by their wartime pupils in St Andrews. The exhibition is free but there is an admission charge to the Botanic Garden.

"The two McKenzie sisters have lived close together throughout their lives, and as engravers each has a remarkable quality though in matters of individuality they are surprisingly different. The handling of light in Winifred's engraving is the flood source, breaking through the arboreal colander. Her engraving technique is that of the painter. Alison's handling of light is the beam source, illuminating a world of solids, a sculptural concept expressing solidity, security and order. Her engraving is remarkable for its economy and precision."
- A History of British Wood Engraving by Albert Garrett 1978


'House over the Canal' by Winifred McKenzie

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