Edinburgh School artists growing in popularity in art world

Still Life, Lamplight, by Sir William Gillies
Still Life, Lamplight, by Sir William Gillies
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Though to the untrained eye these may just look like pretty pictures, they are also worth a pretty penny – and the value is set to rise and rise.

According to experts, the work of a group of artists known as the 
Edinburgh School is fast becoming as popular – and as pricey – as that of the world-renowned Glasgow Boys.

White Cyclamen by Anne Redpath

White Cyclamen by Anne Redpath

And with 24 works by members of the Edinburgh School set to go to auction next week, Scottish art lovers could find themselves battling it out to take home an attractive investment.

Art impresario Richard Demarco said: “The Edinburgh School are very distinctive, completely separate in their style from the Glasgow Boys, who were at their most prolific towards the end of the 19th century. However, they are fast becoming like the Glasgow Boys in the sense of their prominence and recognition for influencing the art world. It’s only a matter of time before they are judged on the same level.”

The Edinburgh School mainly refers to seven painters – Sir William Gillies, Sir Robin Philipson, Anne Redpath, John Maxwell, William Crozier, William Geissler and Sir William MacTaggart – whose main output was produced in the years between the two world wars and, according to Mr Demarco, “can be recognised ten miles away”.

The group, perhaps best known for their still lifes and landscapes which were marked by vivid colour, had close ties to Edinburgh College of Art, with some of the Edinburgh School serving time as both pupil and teacher in their lifetime.

Richard Demarco. Picture: Gareth Easton

Richard Demarco. Picture: Gareth Easton

While many in the art world are generally known for their refinement and decorum, that could all go out of the window next week when a selection of the School’s paintings go up for auction at Bonhams Edinburgh.

The sale of a private collection of Scottish Colourist paintings will include 24 paintings by four artists of the Edinburgh School.

Several paintings by Gillies, Philipson and Redpath are included in the sale, along with one work by Maxwell.

Chris Brickley, head of pictures at Bonhams Scotland, said: “We have some lovely examples of the work of the Edinburgh School, covering a good range of their output, which has a universal appeal and is very accessible.

“Gillies, Philipson and Redpath were extremely prolific artists but Maxwell was known to be highly self-critical, to the point where he would even destroy his own work, so that goes some way to explaining why his paintings can be more difficult to find.”

The one Maxwell painting included in the auction, Flowers Under Glass, which was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in the 1950s, is expected to be sold for between £6000 and £8000. Three of the works – William Gillies: Still Life, Lamplight; Sir Robin Philipson: The Meadow; and Anne Redpath: White Cyclamen – have been estimated to attract bids of up to £15,000, with the whole Edinburgh School collection on offer estimated to be worth £123,500.

But considering another painting by Redpath – Still Life With White Tulips – sold for a record £216,000 at auction in 2007, all bets could be off.

Mr Brickley said: “Anything is possible. We once auctioned a painting by William Gillies which ended up selling for £24,000 and that was over ten years ago. I’m cautiously optimistic.”

However, Mr Demarco advises those with a spare grand or two to throw caution to the wind, as the value of the work of the Edinburgh School is only expected to rise.

He said: “They will sell forever. I would advise anyone considering buying one to do so. They are absolutely, totally secure. They already have a good market value and that will only go up over the next ten years.”

If you’re not quite that flush, the starting price for two works by Gillies – Farmhouse and Ferniehirst – is at offers over £800. And if that seems a little steep, bear this in mind – The Bridge at Grez by Glasgow Boy John Lavery was sold at auction over ten years ago for more than £1.5 million.

• The Scottish Art auction at Bonhams will take place on April 17. Prior to this, there are five days of viewing.


SIR William Gillies was born in Haddington, East Lothian in 1898. He began attending Edinburgh College of Art in 1916, but his studies were interrupted by the First World War, where he served with the Scottish Rifles. He returned to finish his education in 1919 and after travelling throughout Europe returned as a teacher. He was ECA principal from 1959 to 1966 and died in 1973.

John Maxwell was born in Dalbeattie in 1905. After studying at ECA he returned to teach in 1926. He retired in 1946 to paint full-time but returned in 1955 at Gillies’ behest. He died in 1962.

Anne Redpath was born in 1895 and began studying at the ECA in 1913. She moved to France in 1920 and took time off from painting to raise her three sons. She returned to Scotland and painting in the early 1930s. There is a plaque on the house in London Street where she lived.

Sir Robin Philipson was born in 1916, moving to Scotland in 1930 and began at ECA in 1936. He became a lecturer there in 1947, was president of the Royal Scottish Academy between 1973-83 and was knighted in 1976.