This winter, we are thrilled to present Modernism and Nation, an anniversary exhibition of work by renowned Academician Sir William Gillies (1898 - 1973).
Gallery 7, RSA Upper Galleries
Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12-5pm
Christmas closure: Closed 25-31 December, open 1 January 12-5pm
Born in Haddington, Gillies studied at the Edinburgh College of Art. He travelled widely, returning to the college after the First World War as an accomplished artist and tutor, where he taught for more than forty years until his retirement as Principal in 1966. He was a hugely influential, if not the most influential painter in the Scottish twentieth century, and inspired countless artists to follow his lead and passion in paint.
Throughout his career Gillies explored and developed different approaches to his painting, absorbing European modernism and redirecting it through an art that was intimately connected to his life. Experimenting with cubism after studying in Paris in 1923, the revelatory discovery of Edvard Munch in an SSA exhibition in 1931 opened further doors to Expressionism, abstraction, symbol, the art of Paul Klee, the naiveties of child art, and the latter-day French belle peinture. The results emerged over the following thirty years and across the full range of his painting – in portraiture, still life and landscape – as he attempted to find a voice for his isolation.
William Gillies: Modernism and Nation will feature paintings, drawings and associated photographs, archives and objects from Gillies’ career. It is accompanied and inspired by a groundbreaking new book on the artist. William Gillies: Modernism and Nation in British Art by Andrew McPherson, published by Edinburgh University Press in partnership with the RSA, boldly reinterprets Gillies life and art through the lenses of modernism and the traumas of his life.
In addition to our show here in Edinburgh, the exhibition will tour nine venues across Scotland and the Scottish Isles throughout 2024 and 2025. We’ll be visiting Rozelle House, Hawick Museum, Perth Art Gallery, Taigh Chearsabhagh, Pier Arts Centre, Inverness Art Gallery, Gracefield Arts Centre, and Kirkcudbright Galleries, with each venue presenting a version of the show with a different focus. There will also be an exhibition at the John Gray Centre, Haddington, William Gillies’ birthplace, mounted in parallel with our exhibition.