Dr. Ian Fleming RSA 1906-1994
Elected ARSA: 19 March 1947
Elected RSA: 2 August 1956
With the death of lan Fleming, in his 88th year on Sunday 24 July, 1994, the Royal Scottish Academy and Scottish Art suffered a great loss. When in 1993, The Robert Gordon University honoured Dr Fleming the Royal Scottish Academy’s most senior member, with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Arts he became the first citizen of Aberdeen to have received such honours from both Universities in the city -a fitting recognition of the high esteem in which he was held not only in Aberdeen but throughout Scotland.
Born in Glasgow he was from his earliest days as a pupil at Hyndland School never in any doubt as to his future evocation as an artist. While a student at Glasgow School of Art, in the stimulating company of such noted contemporaries as James Mcintosh Patrick and Edward Baird, he quickly established a reputation as a brilliant draughtsman and a skilful engraver and etcher.
Soon afterwards as member of the painting staff at the School he was to paint the perceptive portrait of two of his students Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde who were to become the Scots contingent of the wartime Neo-Romantics.
The onset of War saw him as a reserve: policeman in Glasgow City, recording his experience in a series of etchings. From 1941 he served with the Pioneer Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant in Normandy continuing through the Low Countries across the Rhine into Germany, always with his drawing and painting materials to hand; always recording.
Demobbed in 1946, having achieved the rank of Acting-Major, he returned to Glasgow for a final period at Glasgow School of Art. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1947 and left Glasgow in 1948 to succeed James Cowie as Warden of Patrick Allan-Fraser College of Art, Hospitalfield, Arbroath, an idyllic place for his wife Cath, one of his former students and for his young family, the inspiration for a particularly fruitful time in his painting.
In 1954 he accepted the position of Principal of Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. Shortly after, in 1956, he was elected a Member of the Royal Scottish Academy. He was an avuncular presence both in the Academy and the School, always supportive of the young, ready, if needed with a spot of trenchant criticism.
Under his guidance there was a gradual increase in the number of students, necessitating a move from Schoolhill to a fine new building in Garthdee. During this time he played the key role in the revival in 1958 of the Aberdeen Artists Society, which had lain moribund since 1939, and is today the most important exhibition in Aberdeen City Gallery’s annual calendar.
He has stated his recreation in “Who's Who” to be “anything Scottish”. This was manifested in many ways including his Chairmanship of the Saltire Society in Aberdeen. He would have been too modest to say “public service”, but after retiral from Gray’s in 1971, a life long Rotarian, he became the enthusiastic founder-Chairman of Peacock Printmakers and Artspace, and gave his time generously in support of Cyrenians.
Fellow members, ex-students and friends will fondly remember him as a prolific artist, a sparkling and humorous conversationalist, and a seemingly fathomless resource with an encyclopaedic knowledge of art and artists which he happily shared. He is survived by his wife Cath, daughters Elspeth and Fiona and son Alistair.
Transcribed from the 1994 RSA Annual Report