Art in Dundee

Works from the R.S.A. Collection

Broughty Ferry by W Gillies

'Broughty Ferry' by W Gillies, 1915

A collaborative exhibition between the University of Dundee Museum Services and the Royal Scottish Academy, this show provides a chance to see Dundee-themed artworks from the RSA's extensive collections. Stunning paintings by artists such as John Duncan and Alberto Morrocco will be featured alongside drawings by recent Dundee-based recipients of the RSA's John Kinross travelling scholarship.

Tower Foyer Gallery
Tower Building
University of Dundee

28th April - 24th June 2006

Opening times: 09.30-20.30 Mon-Fri 09.30-16.30 Sat

Admission Free

Landscape by William Simson

'Landscape' by William Simson, c.1831


"The [Royal] Scottish Academy is established in no narrow or exclusive spirit... It aims at promoting the advancement of Scottish art"
(RSA Annual Report, 1828)

Despite its Edinburgh base, the RSA (founded in 1826) has always had a national remit at its heart in its encouragement of contemporary Scottish art. The geographical make-up of its membership over the years is one indicator of this. Early Dundee connections are exemplified by four 19th-century members, the brothers William and George Simson, Robert Gibb and John Zephaniah Bell, who were all Dundee-born. The RSA holds work by each of these artists in its collection, which has grown in tandem with the organisation over the last 180 years and now comprises over 4,500 works of art.

The late 19th century saw an explosion of artistic talent in Dundee, much of it centred around the Celtic revival movement of Patrick Geddes, who came to the University as Professor of Botany in 1888. Two years later the Dundee Graphic Arts Association was founded, and many RSA members wrote to express their opinions in the most enthusiastic terms. William Hole, for example, described the "energy, enterprise and artistic appreciation of Dundee," while William Darling MacKay concluded that Dundee was "perhaps the most vital centre of art appreciation in Scotland." Leading Academicians such as William Fettes Douglas and James Campbell Noble visited the city regularly to open exhibitions and give lectures to GAA members. However, Dundee artists were still under-represented at the Academy's Annual Exhibitions, and in education they tended to favour study on the Continent over the RSA Life Class (though now and again some Dundee names do crop up in the 19th century registers). David Foggie later recalled: "None of my circle talked Edinburgh. Carmichael had studied in Antwerp, Duncan in Dusseldorf & Laing at Julians in Paris. So, Edinburgh was never thought of. I had never seen an Academy exhibition."

No further Dundee artists became members of the RSA until the early 20th century when both Foggie and John Duncan permanently relocated to Edinburgh and became actively involved in the running of the Academy. Foggie held the position of Secretary between 1932 and 1948 while Duncan acted as Librarian from 1925 until his death in 1945. Duncan also assisted with the Academy's educational remit as an RSA representative at Edinburgh College of Art in the 1920s.

By this time Dundee's Art College was also flourishing. Begun in 1892 as part of the Technical Institute, it was now expanding rapidly and attracting leading artists to its staff such as James McIntosh Patrick. But its full potential was not realised until the 1950s, when it moved to its current premises on Perth Road and re-established itself as Duncan of Jordanstone College (DJCAD). It had a new Principal (Hugh Adam Crawford) and a new Head of Drawing & Painting (Alberto Morrocco) - both RSA members. Since then many of the leading teaching staff have been elected to the Academy - David McClure, Gordon Cameron, Dennis Buchan, Ronald Forbes, Alastair Ross and Will Maclean among them.

Christmas Window near the Shore by Dennis Buchan

'Christmas Window near the Shore' by Dennis Buchan, 1995

Current Dundee connections with the RSA are well reflected in the Academy's exhibition programme. This summer sees a solo exhibition by former DJCAD student Eoghann MacColl, winner of the 2005 Alastair Salvesen Scholarship, and Parallel Paths, featuring new work by Ronald Forbes and Doug Cocker. The RSA Student Exhibition, now in its 30th year, regularly showcases work from DJCAD as part of its remit to promote emerging talent from the Scottish Art Colleges. The RSA also supports the next generation of Scottish artists through the John Kinross and Alastair Salvesen scholarships. Many of the recipients of these have been Dundee artists, some of whom have since joined the RSA as members (such as Edward Summerton, who became an Academician in 2005).

This exhibition can only show a small selection of Dundee-related art from the RSA's extensive collection, but we hope that the works on display will provide an indication of the Academy's relationship with Dundee artists of the past and present and the anticipation of future Dundee connections.

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