Anne Redpath: 12 Paintings

6 - 28 June 2014 Edinburgh

Anne Redpath is one of the best loved and most important Scottish painters of the twentieth century. She was a personality of starkly contrasting stripes: an intellectual who painted the most direct and expressive pictures; a strict Congregationalist who developed a passion for Catholic architecture and ornament; a political leftist who indulged a desire for Parisian couture. Cosmopolitan and internationalist in outlook, she remained an unmistakable Scot. At the start of a promising career, she all but gave up painting for 14 years when she followed her architect husband to France, where she raised their three boys. It was only on moving back to her hometown of Hawick in 1934 that restricted finances forced a need for her to earn a living as a painter for the first time. ‘Taking up art again is different from music,’ she said at the time. ‘The actual technique doesn’t matter quite so much as it would in music. But at first it is difficult to attain the same kind of abandon and bravura in your painting.’ Though solvency was initially of prime importance, the pursuit of artistic fulfillment soon took over. From her new home, she painted a series of intimate interiors and still lifes which are now amongst her most coveted work.

The other side of Redpath’s oeuvre took her away from the domestic to foreign climes. Financial constraints and the Second World War made travel impossible for several years after her return to Scotland. However, in 1948, she returned to France, visiting Paris and then Menton in the south. Travelling widely, she went on to complete some of her most exciting work in Spain, Corsica and the Canary Islands: ‘I think I have always been interested in the structural quality of paint and painting,’ she wrote, ‘and I think what I have got out of different countries such as the Canary Islands, Corsica, Brittany and Portugal is something structural.’Her later work is amongst her most adventurous and daring. Redpath’s success grew as time went on. Her Lefevre gallery exhibition and Royal Academy exhibits of1962 sold out and did so again in 1964. The uncompromising palette, the abstraction and the sheer physicality of the paint make these pictures some of her best work. It wasn’t without setbacks, however. As with her Spanish paintings, Redpath’s Corsican pictures were not completed for another two or three years after her visit in 1954, on account of a coronary thrombosis and the temporary loss of the use of her right arm. And not until 1959 did she feel strong enough to travel again. In this respect there is a parallel with the career of her contemporary, Joan Eardley, who suffered from and died of cancer. They both produced some of their most powerful work in their final years when their health was failing, painting with a vigour and robustness that refuted their infirmity.