Artist: William Stewart MacGeorge

No image of artist available
Date of Birth:
1861
Date of Death:
1931
Place of Death:
Edinburgh
Residence in Dumfries & Galloway:

Born in Castle Douglas. Exhibited at Royal Scottish Academy from 120 King Street, Castle Douglas. Lived in Kirkcudbright at various times and was a regular summer visitor. Exhibited at Royal Scottish Academy from there 1918. Shared studio with David Gauld at Castlemains Studio.

Education:

Edinburgh; Antwerp under Verlat and at RSA Life School. Awarded Keith Prize, 1887 for best picture by a student in the exhibition that year

Professional Bodies:

ARSA,1898; RSA, 1910

Exhibited At:

Royal Academy; Royal Scottish Academy; Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts; Aberdeen Artists’ Society; Liverpool; Royal Hibernian Academy

Associates:

E A Hornel, David Gauld, Harry MacGregor

Bibliography:

Royal Scottish Academy obituary 1931; Scotsman obituary10. 11, 1931. Studio, Volume 49, 1910, pp 229-230. The Dictionary of Scottish Painters, Paul Harris and Julian Halsby, Canongate. Kirkcudbright: one hundred years of an artists’ colony, Patrick Bourne, Atelier Books, Edinburgh, 2000. His Bridge of Dee, Summer illustrated in Neil Duncan and BFA catalogue December 1999.(Stewartry Museum file) Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists Haig Gordon, Kirkcudbright, 2006

Notes:

A Galloway man, where throughout his life he found his favourite painting subjects.As a delicate child he was allowed to follow his interest in art. There is a range of MacGeorge’s work in the Stewartry Museum collection and in Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries. The paintings in Dumfries include his portrait of Malcolm McLachlan Harper. His Day on the Shore is in Rozelle Art Gallery, Ayr. His portrait of William Mouncey is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. His Children by the Solway Coast is illustrated in Harris and Halsby p134 (see bibliography). His Bluebell Wood Overlooking the Solway Firth is illustrated in Bourne p51 (see bibliography). Hornel encouraged him to adopt a more decorative style with greater use of impasto and bolder colour. Fell out with Hornel after criticising his heavy drinking. He is particularly remembered for his works depicting children playing in woodland. Character Jerry McWhirter in S R Crockett’s The Raiders modelled on MacGeorge. An early portrait was of John Faed RSA, exhibited Royal Scottish Academy 1890. In 1891 exhibited presentation portrait of “Surfaceman”, Alexander Anderson.  His Kirkcudbright 37 by 56 inches is in Dundee Art Gallery. His Kirkcudbright by Moonlight exhibited at Harbour Gallery, Kirkcudbright jubillee exhibition, 1982. His Spring by the Buckland Burn sold for £6000 at Christies, South Kensington, sale 5306, lot 0068, 16 04 2008. His wife, Mabel Victoria Elliott, was daughter of The Hon Hugh Elliott of Corwar, Barrhill, Ayrshire. They married in 1929. Spent winters in Edinburgh at 11 Melville Place and summers in Kirkcudbright.


William Stewart MacGeorge was born in King Street, Castle Douglas on the first of April 1861.  Like his friend E A Hornel he was the son of a shoe maker.  His father was David MacGeorge, who according to the 1861 census, was the employer of three men and a boy.

MacGeorge was said to be a delicate child and was therefore not discouraged from sketching.  He attended the Free Church School in Castle Douglas where a fellow pupil was S R Crockett.  Crockett included his childhood friends as characters in his 1894 novel The Raiders, and captures MacGeorge’s happy disposition in the character Jerry McWhirter, ’a roguish fellow that came to me to help with my land surveying, but was keener to draw with colours on paper, the hues of the landskip and the sea.  But he was dearest to us because of his continual merry heart, which did us good like a medicine.’

MacGeorge entered the Trustees Academy on the Mound in Edinburgh in 1880 along with fellow Galloway boys E A Hornel and Thomas Bromley Blacklock.  In the 1881 census we find MacGeorge and Crockett lodging together at 50 St Leonard Street.  MacGeorge was a successful student being a prize winner in his second and third years at art school and had a work shown in the RSA in 1881.

In 1883 MacGeorge and Hornel along with William Walls and William Burn – Murdoch enrolled in Antwerp’s Academie Royale des Beaux Arts, where MacGeorge again excelled under the rigorous discipline of Charles Verlat.  On his return to Scotland he enrolled in the RSA Life Schools in Edinburgh, where he continued his studies and embarked on his professional career.

Thereafter, W S MacGeorge divided his life largely between Edinburgh and Galloway.  He lived at 11 Melville Place, Edinburgh during the winter and had a studio in Kirkcudbright in the summer.  Works such as A Galloway Peat Moss, displayed in the National Gallery of Scotland, is a fine example of a plein air realist work showing the influence of Jules Bastien – Lepage on Scottish artists while his Halloween, shown at the RSA in 1893 and to which he returned in his diploma work of 1911 is an example of his interest in childhood rituals. The painting attracted attention when shown later that year at the Paris salon.

W S MacGeorge was the most naturalistic of the Galloway artists.  Informal scenes of children at play are typical of his work. A favourite subject, too, was the salmon fishers and their nets on the Dee at Kirkcudbright.  Commenting on the RSA exhibition of 1910 The Studio observed, ‘One of the outstanding landscapes is Mr W S MacGeorge’s view of salmon fishers at dusk drawing their nets in the estuary of the Kirkcudbright Dee’.  The painting Kirkcudbright is now in the collection of the City Art Centre, Edinburgh.

Late in his life MacGeorge married Mabel Victoria Elliot, a watercolour painter and widow of the artist Hugh Munro and settled at Gifford near Haddington.  Following MacGeorge’s death in 1931 his widow left 45 of his works, many of them Galloway subjects to the town of Haddington.