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Alexander Goudie

Born: 11 November, 1933, in Paisley

Died: 9 March, 2004, in Glasgow, aged 70

ALEXANDER Goudie had a very successful career as a portraitist but he was also known to the literary public as the illustrator of several of Burns’ poems, both for books and murals. His bold, distinctive brushwork ideally mirrored the wild stanzas of the poet. And the savage (almost Breughel-like) detail that Goudie brought to the paintings (especially of Tam O’Shanter) are a wonderful reflection of the artist’s inspired imagination. His list of eminent sitters for portraits was considerable and he became well-known through his appearances on BBC2’s Portrait programme.

Goudie studied at the Glasgow School of Art in the early Fifties. He showed particular promise as a draughtsman and in painting large-scale works and was awarded the Newberry Medal. On leaving college, he took an extended sabbatical in France and toured, holidayed and painted extensively in Provence and Normandy. But he found a particular inspiration in Brittany: its rugged seascapes reminded him of his native land and he returned annually to paint there.

His first major solo exhibition was at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in 1966. He was to exhibit there again in 1974, and at the 1977 Festival he enjoyed an all-embracing retrospective including more than 100 paintings and a dozen sculptures.

His skills as a portrait painter had been well established at the outset of his career. Many commissions came his way and he did striking portraits of Lord Mackay of Clashfern and the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton: the latter hangs at Lennoxlove. He painted Billy Connolly, the mountaineer Chris Bonnington and Sir Edward Brammell for the 1992 TV series Portrait, which explored in fascinating detail the intricacies of such painting.

Perhaps his most prestigious portrait was that of the Queen. It is a striking, full-length canvas, which now hangs in the Ladies Lounge at the Caledonian Club in London. It was commissioned to celebrate the centenary of the club in 1993 and depicts the Queen in the robes of the Order of the Thistle, resplendent in black velvet hat with white plume, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Arthur’s Seat in the background.

Goudie had always been fascinated with the poems of Burns and in 1996 he illustrated a book of 60 of his poems to mark the 200th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Glasgow Artbank organised that year a travelling exhibition, which opened at the Burns International Festival and then visited the Edinburgh Festival and Dumfries - it included Goudie’s 54 striking, dramatic paintings for Tam O’Shanter. All the excitement and action of the original poem is captured, with horses’ nostrils flaring and legs pumping; Tam being chased by the witches is full of intricate detail and passion. The paintings now hang at Rozelle House, near the bard’s cottage in Ayrshire.

Goudie maintained his connections with Brittany and regularly exhibited at the ceramics show at the pottery works at Quimper. He also decorated the public rooms of Brittany Ferries’ flagship La Bretagne.

Most recently, some of his paintings were included in an exhibition at the Links Gallery in St Andrews, at the Old Course Hotel’s exhibition of contemporary Scottish artists.

Goudie, a tall man with flowing locks and a distinguished beard, is well remembered at the Scottish Gallery. "Sandy was simply larger than life," Guy Peploe recalls. "He was unflappable and had immense self-belief: loved music, very knowledgeable and visually so aware."

Alexander Goudie, who was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, met his wife, Marie-Renee, in Brittany in 1959. They married in 1962, and she and three daughters survive him.

 
 
 

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