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Pat Douthwaite

Pat Douthwaite, artist

Born: 28 July, 1939, in Glasgow

Died: 26 July, 2002, in Dundee, aged 62

PAT Douthwaite was a troubled personality and an uncompromising artist who went very much her own way, inevitably attracting the epithet "maverick" whenever her art went on show.

Her early work was often strikingly aggressive and involved with sexual politics, but as a glamorous young woman with Audrey Hepburn looks she might have been an actress or a model. Indeed, she almost made it as an actress early in her career but instead concentrated on painting to become one of the most individual of Scottish artists. Her inspiration ranged far and wide, but her distinctive portrayals of the female body were particularly admired, always crafted with subtlety and compassion but imbued with a certain realistic pathos.

Pat Douthwaite responded to the imagery around her, whether on the Isle of Skye or in South America - and never really settled in one place for very long. Hers was a restless soul searching for new intepretations and meanings: both artistic and personal.

Patricia Douthwaite was born in Glasgow to a solidly middle-class family. She was keen on performing and attended the dance classes of Margaret Morris, the imposing wife of the renowned Scottish landscape artist JD Ferguson. In time, Douthwaite showed him some of her paintings and Ferguson, an uncompromising critic, recognised a very real talent.

He encouraged her to develop her skills and instructed her how to look at light striking a landscape and to transpose that vision on to the paper or canvas. Indeed, Ferguson became a major influence on Douthwaite’s career. But, as she was often to occur in her life, the wanderlust took over and in 1958 she left Glasgow and joined an artistic commune in East Anglia. Among her fellow artists were Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde and William Crozier.

She had never had any formal training, and this period allowed her to experiment in various mediums. She became greatly influenced by the French artist Jean Dubuffet, whose searing black trees against a turbulent sky seemed to strike an immediate chord in her anxious mind.

In East Anglia she met Paul Hogarth, a well-established artist who had houses in Cambridge and Majorca. They married in 1960 and for a decade she was a wife and mother in comfortable surroundings. This security seemed foreign to Pat Douthwaite and increased her own inner insecurity.

She moved north and lived in a variety of homes in Edinburgh, Berwick and Ayr. Money was short, but she continued to paint and draw voraciously. Her confidence was not helped when she was robbed in the street in Edinburgh, but she was able to incorporate these experiences, however painful, into her pictures. They vary greatly in style and content. Her brushwork was sensitive and she had an excellent eye for colour: such qualities are seen to best advantage in her epic canvases on historical heroines.

Not for the first time, it was Richard Demarco who recognised the talent of a young Scottish artist and mounted her first major appearance in Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots, at his Edinburgh gallery in 1967, followed by her Love Pictures at the same gallery the following year. Her Paintings and Drawings 1972-79 appeared at the Talbot Rice Art Centre in Edinburgh before going on tour, and her Worshipped Women, consisting of 26 drawings and with an introduction by Robert Graves, was one of the attractions of the 1982 Edinburgh Festival. There were major retrospective exhibitions at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1982-83 and at the Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, in 1988-89.

In 1993, her solo exhibition of recent paintings at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh was hailed by the then art critic of The Scotsman, Edward Gage, in these terms: "This exhibition demands that she should no longer be seen as an exotic maverick but acknowledged as one of the true originals of Scottish art."

Many of her pictures had an all-prevailing sadness about them. But they reflected her own personality and vision with clarity and a deft realism. The trouble was she was not an "easy sale". She is represented in most of the contemporary galleries in the UK. But she did not go out of her way to endear herself to gallery owners. She was devoted to her art and keen to advance her talents to the maximum.

She battled against increasing ill health in the past few years with mounting courage. Her disability increased her loneliness and added to her feeling of insecurity. Yet somehow she continued to paint and, typical of her, search for new experiences and people. A couple of years ago she moved to Dundee - a city she did not know at all - and worked in a printmakers’ workshop.

She is survived by her son.

 
 
 

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