Overview

Elected ARSA: 20 March1957 

 Andrew Dods was born in Edinburgh, in the Braidburn district, on 10th May 1898. He was the third in a family of five. Educated at Boroughmuir School, he had begun an apprenticeship with Beattie’s —a firm of masons at Haymarket—when the first world war broke out. He and his elder brother, Jim, at once enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders.

 

After his brother’s early death, his mother caused him to be withdrawn behind the lines as he was under age. He became a crack shot and in due course was sent back as a “‘sniper’’. He served during the entire war, being twice wounded, once in the jaw and then in the arm. Once the war was at an end, he never touched a firearm again.

 

On demobilization he resumed his apprenticeship attending evening classes at Edinburgh College of Art, where his ability in clay modelling and in stone carving won him attention. He then became assistant to Pittendreigh Macgillivray, RSA. This was a very fruitful and happy period, for he was able to make up, to some extent, for the rude interruption of his education in the war years.

 

He absorbed a great deal of knowledge and the fine taste he got from his father was brought out through contact with that remarkable Scottish master. He learnt the techniques of planning and exe- cuting in plaster and bronze large and complex works of sculpture and to work to a very high standard in the neo-classical style of the time—all under the guidance and discerning eye of his unique and versatile master.

 

Although working for such a one was not without its difficulties, Andrew ever saw him as his admired mentor, friend and artist of a truly Scottish blend. After Macgillivray’s death he joined the staff of Edinburgh College of Art, where he continued to teach—giving of himself un- sparingly until his death.

 

He was an able modeller of portrait heads, but it was in the intimate portraiture of his wife and family that he most delighted and excelled. He never lost the attachment to stone carving he had developed at Beattie’s and would have preferred to concentrate on this but found that teaching made too great demands on his energies.

 

His best works, carved direct in Derbyshire marble were “Job” sold to America, ““Dawn”’ and “‘Vortex’’. His inclusion in the team gathered together by Sir Frank Mears to carve the monoliths of his Royal Scots Memorial in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, brought him great happiness and satisfaction. He himself designed and carved two of the seven monoliths, and, with other members of the team, worked to clarify the type and style of relief carving appropriate to this unusual conception.

 

He also carved a number of works for banks and schools, including a relief, which interested him greatly, of the Scottish vernacular poet Robert Fergusson, for the Royal High School in Edinburgh. In 1938 he executed in gilded plaster two large-scale reclining figures, the male “Land” and female ‘‘Sea’”’ flanking the entrance stairs giving access to Esmé Gordon’s Travel and Transport Pavilion in the Great Empire Exhibition held in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow. “Air”? was represented by his poised wood eagle which, also gilded, and with raised wings seen against the sky, taking an appropriate thistle form, crowned the central feature.

 

Shortly after the end of the second world war he was runner-up in the competition for the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge, Argyll. He had been deeply involved in the sculpture realization of the design with which the late Joseph L. Gleave, RSA, won the World Competition, at the age of 23, for a Memorial to Christopher Columbus for a site in San Domingo: scale models were made by Andrew and at this time he did very extensive reaearch into South American monumental sculpture.

 

The Memorial took the form of a vast recumbent Cross and was to have been the focal element of a great Pan-American Airport. But the scheme was perhaps too ambitious even for the American promoters and, although the designing had reached an advance stage, the scheme collapsed. It was Andrew’s greatest disappointment. . . .

 

Andrew married late but very happily to Jean Cooper McVie who, with their children, survive him. His home and all it meant was a source of unending joy and interest to him. He loved his native city with all his heart and never ceased to be grateful that he had survived two wars to be able to live in it.

 

He was elected Associate Member of the Academy in 1957 and represented it on the Board of Governors of the Edinburgh College of Art from 1965 until 1974. He died on the 9th February 1976 in his 76th year.

RSA Obituary by Hew Lorimer. Transcribed from the 1976 RSA Annual Report