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Anne Davidson

Sculptor and artist

Born: 3 February, 1937, in Glasgow.

Died: 20 December, 2008, in Aberdeen, aged 71.

ANNE Davidson, DA, ARBS, was an outstanding Scottish sculptor and artist, and many of her commissioned works are on public view in Scotland and further afield. A prominent example of her sculpture is the Edinburgh landmark African Woman and Child, in Festival Square, Lothian Road.

Anne was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart School, Aberdeen. She then studied sculpture at Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen, from 1955-59, graduating top of her class with a DA (sculpture). After training as an art teacher, Anne returned to her former school as principal teacher of art from 1960-68. She then went on to work as a full-time sculptor.

Anne was interested in a broad range of representational and abstract art. She admired the works of many other sculptors, including Barbara Hepworth, Jacob Epstein, Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti. However, she always maintained a resolutely individual and independent vision of the world, communicated in her own distinctive and inclusive style.

Anne's sculpture was representational and figurative, and included statues, relief sculptures and portrait heads. She was commissioned to create many secular and religious works, large and small, during her long and diverse career.

She was a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors (Arbs) and of the International Society of Christian Artists (Siac), Christian Arts, and the Society of Catholic Artists.

Anne was interested in the human figure and the lives of her subjects. She attempted to capture the common humanity of individuals, kings and saints alike, through her generous and affectionate treatment.

Anne's sculptures often celebrated a dignified and quiet strength. African Woman and Child is a perfect example. Edinburgh City Council commissioned this larger-than-life-sized work in foundry cast bronze, after an open competition, to symbolise the city's stand against apartheid.

Anne chose to celebrate the dignified courage and resolve of the South African people in the face of terrible repression and poverty. The sculpture depicts a black woman standing with a young child in front of the suggestion of a shantytown. It was unveiled on 22 July, 1986 by a then-exiled member of the African National Congress, Suganya Chetty, who was living in Edinburgh at that time.

Anne researched each project thoroughly and tried to make her works as historically accurate as possible. She used this research to gain an understanding of her subjects, then place her vision of them in their proper context. She used significant and visually evocative details, such as their clothing and the symbols associated with them.

For instance, her figure of Robert the Bruce, commissioned by Aberdeen City Council, and on display in Aberdeen Town House, shows the heroic Scottish king in 14th-century armour carrying the Scottish shield and his great sword. Anne used textured materials in the creation of the original models to produce the accurate decorative effects seen in the final casts.

Other secular pieces include a figure of a Gordon Highlander officer for the Alick Buchanan-Smith Award, a statue of Mary, Queen of Scots and a series of ballet figures. The oil industry, the Royal Mail, William Grant and Sons Ltd, Glenfiddich Distillery and Aberdeen City Council were among other organisations and individuals who commissioned Anne to model gifts and awards for them.

In 1993, the Most Rev Mario Conti, Archbishop of Glasgow, then Bishop of Aberdeen, commissioned Anne to create a small figure of St Margaret of Scotland to celebrate her 900th anniversary, in an edition of 500. St Margaret married King Malcolm III of Scotland in the 11th century and was especially concerned with the welfare of the poor and the education and spiritual needs of the people of Scotland. The sculpture represents these interests by showing St Margaret holding an open book and gently leading a small girl by the hand.

On 22 February, 2003, during an audience with Pope John Paul II, then prime minister Tony Blair presented him with Anne's statue of St Margaret of Scotland.

Anne also produced a larger version of her St Margaret of Scotland figure, in a limited edition of ten, commissioned by St Margaret's Church, Long Island, in the United States. Other copies in this edition are located in Dunfermline, Aberdeen, Bushey, London, and New Zealand.

Other important religious commissions Anne created were the relief sculptures in St Mary's RC Cathedral, Aberdeen; the external reliefs for the Church of St Paschal Baylon in Liverpool; and The Madonna and Child and St Columba statues in the St Columba Church complex, Aberdeen. Her final large commission was a statue of St Paul, completed at the end of July 2008, for St Paul the Apostle Church, Glasgow.

Anne married Jimmy in 1966. Jimmy, also a sculptor skilled in casting techniques and an experienced calligrapher, worked with Anne to produce the finished sculptures. He continues to produce their work.

As well as working as a dedicated sculptor, Anne produced many drawings, illustrations and paintings. She also maintained a lifelong interest in communicating art by teaching part-time. She lectured in sculpture at Gray's School of Art from 1978-82. Between 1985 and 1998, she and Jimmy ran a popular sculpture workshop for the blind, funded by Aberdeen City Council. Anne taught art to children at schools in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and was still teaching in three Aberdeen primary schools until her illness in September 2008.

Anne Davidson is survived by Jimmy, their four children and four grandchildren.

 
 
 

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