A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Sir William George GILLIES 21 September 1898 - 15 April 1973

ARSA 1940, RSA 1947, RSW 1950, CBE 1957, ARA 1965, Knighted 1970, RA 1971, PRSW 1963-69

Biography

Sir William George Gillies was born in Haddington, East Lothian, near Edinburgh, William Gillies interest in art was encouraged by his uncle, William Ryle Smith, an art teacher and watercolourist from Broughty Ferry with whom he took trips to Edinburgh to paint, and so the young William Gillies was exposed to the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy’s(RSA)  annual exhibition of new Scottish work.. He enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) in 1916 but after two terms was called up to serve in the war in 1917, resuming his studies in 1919.

 
His teachers at ECA included D M Sutherland who influenced his use of colour, David Alison who influenced his handling of oil, Adam Bruce Thomson and Donald Moodie. In 1922 Gillies graduated and became a founder member of the 1922 Group with Sir William MacTAGGART, William CROZIER, William Geissler and others.

He is well known as part of the Edinburgh School of painters with MacTaggart, Crozier, Geissler as well as, latterly, Anne REDPATH and Robin PHILIPSON.
 
In 1923 he received a Travelling Scholarship and visited Paris with Geissler, studying at the academy of Andre Lhote. Lhote’s decorative Cubism did little for Gillies and he made his way to Florence in Italy.
 
Upon hi return to Scotland he taught at Inverness Academy, then joined the ECA staff, which included MacTaggart and John MAXWELL. He was to teach at the ECA for 40 years. In 1946 he was appointed Head of Painting, and become Principal in 1960, retiring in 1966. Despite his full-time teaching job his art never suffered and he continued to paint landscapes, interiors and still-life right up to his death.

During the late 1920s and 1930s Gillies developed a loose, almost Expressionist style, painting the Scottish landscape directly, on the spot, en plein air, often spending painting holidays with Maxwell and other artists in Dumfries & Galloway.
 
In 1939 Gillies moved to the Midlothian village of Temple where the surrounding landscape provided the subject for many of his later works. He visited the villages of East Linton, Haddington, Howgate and Gifford on his motorcycle, painting in oil and watercolour. In the post war period his landscapes became more complex, using intricate patterns of roofs, winding roads, fences, trees and hedges as constructive elements. Pencil and ink outlines became important in his watercolours. He also enjoyed the east coast fishing villages whose nets and boats provided similar fascination.
 
Gillies influence on Scottish painting of the twentieth century has been profound.