Artist: William Miles Johnston

Date of Birth:
1893
Date of Death:
1974
Residence in Dumfries & Galloway:

Moved to Kirkcudbright in 1940. Hut at Carrick shore. Lived at Castle Street, Kirkcudbright, and had a shop called "The Crafts".

Education:

Edinburgh College of Art

Exhibited At:

Royal Scottish Academy

Mentors:

Influenced by William Walls who taught him at Edin

Associates:

Jessie M King and E A Taylor

Bibliography:

Kirkcudbright: one hundred years of an artists’ colony, Patrick Bourne, Atelier Books, Edinburgh, 2000.

Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists, Haig Gordon, Kirkcudbright, 2006 

Image of the artist, Stewartry Museum

Notes:

Assisted Sir Robert Lorimer with decoration of the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh. Friend of Ronald Searle. Sketches of Johnston’s children were origin of “Belles of St Trinians” drawings. First Kirkcudbright picture exhibited at Royal Scottish Academy, 1934.


Kirkcudbright’s reputation as an artistic centre was maintained and enhanced in the 1920s by Jessie M King and E A Taylor.  Glasgow and Paris friends such as S J Peploe visited and were inspired to paint here.  Students from Edinburgh College of Art were encouraged to take the Taylors’ art classes in the town and on the Isle of Arran.  This established links with young Edinburgh College of Art students such as Cecile Walton, Dorothy Sutherland, A R Sturrock, William and (“Bill) Miles Johnston.

As students and friends of Jessie M King, from 1918, Bill (as he was known to his friends) and his wife, Dorothy Nesbitt, were regular visitors to Greengate Close in the summer months where they stayed in one of the Close’s cottages.  Bill was a highly talanted animal and bird artist, and his work was of such distinction that he was made a Life Fellow of the Edinburgh Zoological Society.  After the war he also assisted Sir Robert Lorimer in his work on the Scottish War Memorial in Edinburgh.  He also used bird and animal figures in his decoration of pottery, which he sold under the “Zoo” pottery brand.  He inspired Jessie M King to work in this medium of decorative art.

In 1940, the Johnston family moved to Kirkcudbright where Bill opened “The Crafts” in Castle Street, from which he sold his paintings, ceramics and a variety of painted wooden objects – plywood cut-outs of animals and birds are perhaps best remembered.  His watercolours of Kirkcudbright and the surrounding countryside (especially Carrick shore where the family had a hut) were much in demand locally.  During the Second World War the Johnston family befriended Ronald Searle, when he was posted here as soldier.  The Johnston daughters inspired his creation of the “St Trinnians Girls”.  Dorothy Nesbitt later became a Town Councillor and was instrumental with others in saving the harbour cottages from demolition and creating the Harbour Cottage Art Gallery.