Murdo Macdonald is Emeritus Professor of History of Scottish Art at the University of Dundee. He is author of Scottish Art in Thames and Hudson’s World of Art series. He has worked extensively as an art critic and is a former editor of Edinburgh Review. Along with Will Maclean RSA and Arthur Watson PPRSA he developed the practice-led PhD programme in Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. His research interests include the art of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd, with respect to which he has co-edited two books (with text both in Gaelic and English) published by the Royal Scottish Academy: Highland Art from the Collections of the Royal Scottish Academy: A Window to the West / Ealain Ghàidhealach bho chruinneachaidhean Acadamaidh Rioghail na h-Alba: Uinneag dhan aird an Iar in 2008, and Rethinking Highland Art: The Visual Significance of Gaelic Culture/Sealladh as ùr air Ealain na Gàidhealtachd: Brìgh Lèirsinn ann an Dualchas nan Gàidheal in 2013. Those books were supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project based at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (University of Dundee) and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (University of the Highlands and Islands). A focus of that project was a major exhibition co-curated with Arthur Watson: Uinneag Dhan Àird an Iar: Ath-lorg Ealain na Gàidhealtachd / Window to the West: the Rediscovery of Highland Art, held at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh from November 2010 to March 2011.


Other research interests include Robert Burns and art, and the cultural milieu of the Celtic revivalist and ecologist Patrick Geddes, not least with respect to cognate cultural revivals in India and Japan. In 2005 he co-edited Patrick Geddes: By Leaves We Live, jointly published by Edinburgh College of Art and Yamaguchi Institute of Contemporary Art, with text in Japanese and English. His book Patrick Geddes’s Intellectual Origins will be published by Edinburgh University Press in 2020. He is academic advisor to the Wellcome funded cataloguing project Evergreen: Patrick Geddes and the Environment in Equilibrium, a joint project of the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde. He has a longstanding interest in James Macpherson’s Poems of Ossian as a point of origin of the Celtic revival.


In 2013 (with Eric Shanes) he identified J. M. W. Turner’s lost Ossian work painted in 1802. He has been invited to lecture on his research at universities and public institutions both in the UK and elsewhere (Japan, Iceland, Finland, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy). Two notable invited lectures in Scotland are (i) the Royal Scottish Academy Sir William Gillies Lecture, Art and the Highlands, given at An Lanntair, Stornoway in 2008, the first time it had been given outside Edinburgh, and (ii) the inaugural Andrew Tannahill Lecture, Scottish Literature and Visual Art: A Caledonian Synergy, given at the National Library of Scotland in 2009.


For Edinburgh University Press in 2013 he edited and introduced a new edition of George Davie’s classic account of the Scottish intellectual tradition, The Democratic Intellect. His doctoral thesis (University of Edinburgh, 1986) concerned the relationships between arts and sciences. In that regard from 2012 to 2015 (with the support of the Royal Society of Edinburgh) he researched the photographs of Cloud Chamber tracks made by the Nobel-prize-winning Scottish physicist C. T. R. Wilson. A number of those images are now in the collection of the Royal Scottish Academy. He is an advisor to Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in North Uist. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He was appointed an honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 2009, and an honorary fellow of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies in 2016. He lives in Stornoway.