The Academicians’ Gallery

Free entry


Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song.
No winter in thy year!

Michael Bruce (1746-1767), To the Cuckoo


An exhibition of Royal Scottish Academicians reflecting on the significance of birds as a motif in contemporary Scottish art.


Exhibitors: Ade Adesina, Michael Agnew, Elizabeth Blackadder, John Busby, Joyce Cairns, James Castle, George Donald, James Fairgrieve, Alexander Fraser, Derrick Guild, Jessica Harrison, Henry Kondracki, Jack Knox, Elspeth Lamb, Eileen Lawrence, William Littlejohn, Stuart Mackenzie, Will Maclean, Gordon Mitchell, Frances Pelly, Marion Smith, Edward Summerton.


The symbolic promise of birds has long been a source of fascination for artists. The freedom of flight is enticing subject matter for those seeking freedom of thought and expression. Whilst some birds may carry metaphorical hopes and dreams of their wings, others sing melancholic songs of loss and solitude. This exhibition provides an insight into the scope with which Royal Scottish Academicians have approached ornithological subject matter and employed the potent symbolism of the bird.


Bringing together a wide range of methodologies and mediums, the exhibition reveals a shared interest in the aspirational ideal of flight but also in the inferred connection between birds, the landscape and national identity. Derrick Guild’s finely detailed paintings play to a fascination with ornithology through the history of art. Stuart Mackenzie will exhibit works centring on process of drawing and recording wildlife whilst new prints by Ade Adesina consider the implications of ecological change. Jessica Harrison will be represented with new ceramic wall-based works and James Castle’s playful sculptures will be on view. Gordon Mitchell will show paintings with his frequently used iconographical motif of the bird. Marion Smith and Will Maclean contribute works that consider the importance of birds within the collective memory of the environment. Paintings and drawings from the archives of William Littlejohn (1929-2006), John Busby (1928-2015) and Jack Knox (1936-2015) will also be on display.