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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

James D Robertson Memorial Exhibition

An edited version of this piece on James D (Jimmy) Robertson appeared in The Herald on 25/9/10

Jimmy's contribution to the visual arts scene, particularly in Glasgow, from the 1960s until his death in January this year, was immense.

If you are at all interested in the recent history of art in Scotland, I'd urge you to get your hands on the catalogue produced for this memorial exhibition. It paints a vivid picture - in words and pictures - of the art scene which centred around the Glasgow School of Art from the 1950s until the 1990s.


Glasgow Art Club
85 Bath Street, Glasgow
0141 248 5210
October 4-23
(Viewings from 6-9pm on Friday October 1 and from 12pm-3pm on Saturday October 2 – call for more details)

It must have been with some trepidation that the friends and family of the late James D (Jimmy) Robertson decided to mount a memorial exhibition in his name at his spiritual home of the Glasgow Art Club.
Indeed, it is with trepidation I write about him, as I’m convinced the Puck-like spirit of this fine painter with critical faculties so finely tuned they could slay at 50 paces, is hovering at my shoulder, ready to pounce on a word or phrase he considers inaccurate.
Small in stature, but a towering figure in terms of his influence on generations of painters, including the so-called New Glasgow Boys who emerged from Glasgow School of Art during the 1980s, Robertson, was one of several eminent artists who taught at GSA from the late 1950s until the 1990s.
With his death in January this year at the age of 78, another link with the mid-20th century hothouse environment of the GSA has gone.
Names such as David Donaldson, Alexander Goudie, Dan Ferguson, John Cunningham, Duncan Shanks, Geoffrey Squire, Leon Morrocco, Sandy Moffat and Barbara Rae sprinkle the text of a highly entertaining essay in a specially-produced catalogue to accompany this memorial exhibition. Written by Robin Hume, a former student and later a colleague at GSA, the text is interspersed with images of Robertson’s paintings, evocative black and white photographs, and witty cartoons by the likes of Dan Ferguson and Emilio Coia.
Ironically, considering the almost universal opinion that Robertson was a fine artist, with a distinctive painterly style and palette, as well as uniquely personal vision honed over several decades, the wider public outside the somewhat narrow art circles in Glasgow and Edinburgh did not know his work.
The hope is that this memorial exhibition in the Glasgow Art Club, of which he had been a member for 53 years when he died, will go some way to giving Robertson a higher profile than he enjoyed during his lifetime.
From next Friday, a collection of over 70 paintings and a small collection of personal memorabilia will take over the walls of the historic Glasgow institution. The exhibition, which includes several special events has been organised and curated by his daughter, Kate Dobson and a group of former colleagues and students, including Hume, Hazel Nagl, Jacqueline Orr and Ronald F Smith.
According to long-time friend Raymond Williamson, currently president of Glasgow Art Club, Robertson was the most significant painter of his generation from Glasgow School of Art. “It’s fitting that this exhibition will be held in the art club, of which he was such a fixture,” he adds. “He was usually to be seen in an old linen chair by the fire, usually with a whisky in his hand, holding forth on the topics of the day. It’s fair to say he had trenchant views on people’s qualities and there were relatively few who cut the mustard.
At the heart of this exhibition, particularly in the catalogue (a must-read for anyone interested in the recent history of Glasgow School of Art), is a deep appreciation of Robertson’s skill as an artist.
Towards the end of the catalogue, a page is devoted to ‘Jimmy’s Palette’ (both oil and gouache), which no serious painter can afford not to cut out and keep.
One former student, Jacqueline Orr, describes this as a masterpiece in itself. “Apart from Venetian Red there are no other ‘earth’ colours in his palette,” she explains. “Jimmy's luxuriant, muted greys and earth colours were the product of decades of mixing colours. Venetian Red is a killer.
“It will obliterate everything you mix it with and is such strong colour if applied directly; it should be used with caution. Talk about Jimmy being influenced by the Scottish Colourists is nonsense - it was his ability to make colours work together that made him a supreme colourist in his own right.”


  1. This exhibition sounds like a treat - I will definitely be making a trip to see it.

  2. Thanks Zoe. I was at the opening (well, one of them) the other night and it is fantastic to see the walls of the whole of this historic building festooned with Jimmy's work. The great thing is that it's very personal. The first reason for this is that Jimmy was 'in with the bricks' of the Art Club, and the second one is that many of the works - esp the early ones - have been loaned by the family. As one observer put it 'you'll never see this again'. The photographs and cartoons by the likes of the late Emilio Coia and Dan Ferguson are wonderful too.


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