BORN: 21 November, 1935, in Dundee. Died: 15 November, 2014, in Dundee, aged 78.
His work as a watercolourist focused on finely drawn, quiet studies of the shore and harbour of Arbroath but Dick Hunter lived his life embracing the exuberance and culture of Italy that he fell in love with on a travelling scholarship.
Never happier than when surrounded by family, entertaining a lively tableful of guests enjoying his exquisite cooking or rowing out to sea gathering mussels, he was a bon viveur for whom good food, lovingly prepared, was another expression of his art and one to which he applied the same care and precision.
It was one of the joys of civilised living for this man of many parts – painter, teacher, builder, chef, raconteur – whose knowledge also extended to any number of diverse subjects: he could expound on the works of Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca; the intricacies of disembowelling a spider crab; gilding butterflies or crafting timber joints, the latter as a result of his extensive building work on the ever-expanding lodge he shared with his wife, the artist Ann Patrick.
And though Arbroath was at the heart of his professional and private life, his paintings could be found in collections far beyond the bounds of the coastal town that provided so much of his artistic inspiration.
The son of post office clerk Herbert Hunter and his wife Nellie, his lifelong fascination with all things connected to the sea and fish began in childhood with night fishing trips with his father. At Arbroath High School his artistic talent was already evident when he became Art Dux in 1952 and from there he went on to Dundee Art College where his tutors included the artists Hugh Adam Crawford and Alberto Morrocco.
During his student days he also attended a summer school at Hospitalfield House, Arbroath where he was mentored by his future father-in-law James McIntosh Patrick and John Maclauchlan Milne, both noted for their landscapes.
He graduated in 1956 with a Diploma in Art and, after a post-diploma scholarship year, he went to Dundee Teacher Training College before spending 1958-59 in Europe on a travelling scholarship visiting destinations including Paris, Tuscany, Rome, Ibiza, Barcelona and Toledo.
It was the trip to Italy, where he spent time in Siena, Arezzo, Assisi, Perugia, Borgo San Sansepolcro and Florence, that fuelled his enduring love of the country, its food, language and culture.
His career as a teacher began in 1959 and spanned more than 40 years, including posts in Glasgow and at Brechin High School.
He returned to Dundee in 1966 as a lecturer in drawing and painting at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art where he subsequently became course director for its first-year general course and where generations of students benefited from his sensitive, insightful advice, his kindness, generosity and fairness of spirit.
Elected to membership of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1969, as an artist, his biggest influence was his home town of Arbroath where he lived with his wife, whom he had met at college, and their family.
He and Ann married in 1960, with the reception held in the large garden of her parents’ house in Dundee which features in some of her father’s best-known paintings. The couple then settled in a small Victorian lodge which was extended to accommodate the arrival of their three children.
Hunter, a fine draughtsman, became architect, builder and site foreman and completed most of the work using reclaimed materials – the studio windows were acquired from a local branch of the Bank of Scotland that was being refitted, others, plus a door, came from the High Street’s William Low supermarket.
The “house that Dick built” is also home to many unusual, beautiful objects, including his wife’s colourful paintings.
And above the fireplace hangs one of his own large watercolours, of a boatyard – a perfect illustration of the inspiration the town invoked. He once explained: “I live in Arbroath – I find my subject matter at the local shore and harbour, in the paraphernalia of fishing, boat building and repair, now sadly depleted, and in the textures of woodgrain, concrete and metal, bleached, weathered and eroded by the sea.”
He exhibited regularly with the Royal Scottish Academy, won the Alexander Graham Munro award at the 129th annual exhibition of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour in 2009, with his painting Time and Tide, and has works in public and private collections in London, across Scotland, in Canada and in the collection of The Duke of Edinburgh. Meanwhile, in Arbroath, his father-in-law’s etchings of Italy adorned the stairs of Hunter’s home where the kitchen and the dining room were his domain – the heart and soul of the house and a reflection of his love of food and conviviality.
The scholarship to Italy had left an indelible impression and he and Ann returned there many times, as well as to France and Spain.
There was an affinity for that continental-style mix of great food, good wine and conversation and he became an expert chef and scholar on the theory of cuisine.
Fearless in the kitchen, he cooked from scratch with an element of obsession which included how to make the perfect Tuscan flatbread schiaccata and one memorable summer of hundreds of sun-dried tomatoes.
He is survived by his wife Ann and their children Andrew, Julian and Susannah, who have all followed in their parents’ artistic footsteps.