John Kinross Scholar in 1990


Duncan Robertson, Untitled, bronze, 30 x 45 x 28 cm

How did the experience affect you as an individual?
At the time of graduating I was unsure what the future was going to bring and I was very nervous about leaving art college and the support network that involved. Been awarded to John Kinross Scholarship to go to Florence was a great encouragement for the future, optimism that I was lacking at the time. Encouragement that the future road to becoming an artist was a possible path to follow.

From the very beginning I wanted to make the scholarship a catalyst to stay for a year in Florence, I was very fortunate I found work in the very first week of being in Florence and eventually found a wonderful apartment halfway to Fiesole.

I managed to acquire the Tessera Libra Ingresso, a free entrance ticket to state museums through the scholarship. This meant I could go to the Uffizi or Academy at will and just look at one or two artworks, it was like having golden ticket.

I would often visit the Uffizi and draw in front of Botticelli, Leonardo and Michelangelo. I like very much going out sketching and I felt I had the time to sit, look and draw and feel all the artworks that were on the menu in Florence.

I also spent much time cycling into the landscape and countryside around Florence, becoming especially interested in Renaissance Gardens. Sketching in the Tuscan landscape. The romantic nature of the past and the present especially touched me while on the scholarship, sometimes it did feel like being in the Merchant Ivory film “A Room with a View”.

It was a heavy mix of a Scottish romantic in a classical landscape and mixture of
youthful living and experiencing the culture of Florence


What was the impact on your practice?
I did a lot of sketching while in Italy from the Renaissance Masters and anything I found in churches, it really was the feeling of exploring what was around and to be found.

I was especially interested in Botticelli’s use of flowers as a way of communicating ideas. The idea that the most difficult things we have to say in life, we use flowers as a means of expression became an important subject in my work.

I still refer to the sketchbooks that I made while in Italy for inspiration and in present studio practice.


What would you say the long term impact has been on yourself and you work?
I was very lucky to be able to spend a whole year in Italy, it really gave me time to look and explorer Italian culture and feel the artwork and culture.

I definitely feel a much richer person in every sense of the word from the years’ experience in Florence at the tender age of other young aspiring artist, something I carry about in the very core of me.

The method of working that I developed in Florence has never left me, exploring, sketching out ideas, experimenting and then bringing them into a tangible form.

It has always made my work stronger, with this jewel of a year behind me, falling in love in Florence, surrounded by art, architecture and culture, sometimes memories to dream of and be inspired from. In my darkest moments I remember the sunlight, smell in air and romance of Florence. In my most romantic artistic moments I try to make it tangible again.

I had many adventures, friends and relationships during my year in Italy, some which carry on to this very day, the heart of me I will always be a European Scot.

The John Kinross Scholarship has been a very special Legacy in my life. I support myself as a freelance Gallery Educator at the National Galleries of Scotland and pass the John Kinross portrait bust at the National Portrait Gallery often and think what a wonderful gift the John Kinross scholarship is and how much it’s touched me in my life and very being, and wonder if he could have known what romantic adventurous gift of a legacy the Kinross scholarship is.



















Duncan Robertson, The Rath, Canto X, Dante’s Inferno, RSA Collection