Alexander Goudie

Alexander Goudie

Alexander Goudie RP. RGI. (1933-2004) is widely acclaimed as having been one of Scotland’s finest figurative painters. Goudie was born in the Renfrewshire town of Paisley in 1933. He studied at the Glasgow school of Art under William Armour, David Donaldson and Benno Schotz. For many years he was a tutor at the school, before dedicating himself to his own studio work. As a portraitist his sitters included Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Billy Connolly and a host of other figures drawn from the worlds of politics, commerce and entertainment. Although he achieved great renown as a portrait painter Alexander Goudie distinguished himself in a range of other creative spheres.

A life-long association with Brittany resulted from marriage to his Breton wife Marie-Renee. For over 30 years, summers were spent documenting the changing face of the rural landscape in sketchbooks and paintings, on harboursides and in the fields. The culmination of these decades of study came in 1989 with the monumental commission to decorate the interior of the Brittany Ferries Flagship, ‘Bretagne’. Some years later he was chosen to revive the tradition of creative collaboration between artists and the famous ceramic ‘faienceries’ of Quimper. The resulting series of ceramic sculptures depicting ‘Breton types’, bear testament to a way of life that had all but vanished at the end of the 20th century.
A Scot first and foremost however, Goudie held a fascination throughout his career with Robert Burns’ great narrative poem, ‘Tam O’Shanter’ and over many years he re-created the poem in paintings. The final illustrative cycle of over 54 works, completed in 1996, would be purchased in its entirety and now resides on permanent public display at Rozelle House, near Burns’ home in Alloway, Ayrshire.

Alexander Goudie also found literary inspiration in Oscar Wilde’s play ‘Salome’ and Richard Strauss’ opera of the same name. When asked to create the décor for a production by Scottish Opera, the artist immersed himself in both the text and the music. He devised a host of exquisite designs for costumes and sets, which were fated not to appear on stage when the project met financial difficulties. Undeterred, Goudie transformed his vision into an exhibition of dramatic canvasses which was unveiled at the Edinburgh festival in 1990.

Alexander Goudie died in 2004. A brilliant draughtsman and sumptuous colourist, he was an artist who drew inspiration from a broad range of subjects. In his studio in Glasgow he worked tirelessly, painting portraits of society figures one day and immortalising the labouring Breton peasant the next. In character he was as theatrical as many of the canvasses to which he put his name. Possessed of a self-conviction that refused to bow to any of the artistic trends of the day, he saw himself in the tradition of figurative painting which stretched back from the work of his native Glasgow boys, to encompass the influence of Gauguin, Goya, Velazquez and Titian. He identified with them in his strongly held belief that “the pictures should tell their own story” and that an artist should, above all else, “speak with a clear voice”.

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