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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day


David Donaldson

By Philip Long

David Donaldson David Donaldson (1916-1996) was, in his own words "a wee bastard who was bairned up a close in Coatbridge" and first raised by foster parents. David Donaldson became one of Scotland's most recognised portrait painters of the 20th century. He studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1932 to 1937 where, although he passed no formal exams, his ability was recognised by the Director, William Oliphant Hutchison, who provided him with a studio and a travelling scholarship enabling him to visit France and Italy.

Palace of Art In 1938, selected along with several other young Scottish artists, he executed a mural for the Empire Exhibition in Bellahouston Park and in 1941 won the Royal Scottish Academy's Guthrie Award. Unfit for war service, Donaldson began to teach at his former college and was appointed a full-time lecturer in 1944. At this time he began portrait painting and soon attracted numerous commissions culminating in 1966 with a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen which led to his appointment as Painter and Limner to Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland, in 1977. His portraits, often strongly coloured and vigorously painted, have a nervous energy expressive of the emotions he professed to feel at the magnitude of the task of depicting his sitter.

Glasgow School of Art As head of the Department of Drawing and Painting at Glasgow School of Art from 1967 his work continued a tradition of figurative painting there, which led to the development of the internationally recognised group of figurative painters who studied at Glasgow in the 1980s. To those who knew him he will be remembered for his truculent character, his intolerance of pretension and his vocabulary peppered with expletives (in effect more amusing than offensive), and for his own humanity which, as an artist, equipped him to paint insightful portraits of others.

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