Artist and co-founder of influential Glasgow gallery.
Born: 28 December, 1924, in Gourock.
Died: 2 December, 2007, in Glasgow, aged 82.
BET Low ARSA, RSW, DLitt, was born in Gourock and studied art at Glasgow School of Art along with Ian Hamilton Finlay during the Second World War. She attended Jordanhill Teacher Training College and later worked as an art therapist. She co-founded, along with John Taylor, the influential New Charing Cross Gallery in Glasgow. Many of her watercolours have a beguiling, almost mystical quality, which reflects her training in teaching and art therapy. Calm Water (at Mill Bay Hoy), for example, Low painted in 1972 and conjures up a deep feeling of tranquillity amidst some forbidding black mountains. Similarly, that tranquillity is still to be found in Low's 2003 Moonrise, Northern Isles, where the blueness of the sea is reflected in the shimmering green of the coastline.
At Greenock Academy Low displayed a talent for landscape work and in 1942 went to the Glasgow College of Art and attended Hospitalfied College of Art, Arbroath.
During her training at Jordanhilll she became a friend of the young comedian Stanley Baxter. He got Low involved in the Unity Theatre, which was, in modern terms, an outreach project in central Glasgow. The mix of singers, artists and actors appealed to her and Low worked on many of the projects to encourage the young. She also met, and married, Tom McDonald, Unity's resident designer.
Along with members of the Clyde group of writers and artists, Low drew many of the still damaged areas around the Clyde. These etchings captured an era of forgotten war-torn Glasgow and are now of historic importance. Low started exhibiting and her works were seen at the Scottish Independent Artists and the Royal Glasgow Institute. Her watercolours were also seen at the New Art Club, founded by the redoubtable JD Ferguson. Indeed Ferguson supported Low over many years and invited her to show her oils and watercolours in 1956, when he organised the first open-air exhibitions on the railings at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens.
Along with John Taylor and Cyril Gerber, Low opened, in 1963, the New Charing Cross Gallery in Glasgow. The trio mounted a fresh exhibition every month and the adventurous nature of the pictures attracted much attention. They received critical acclaim from the national press and the gallery's policy of encouraging Scottish contemporary art throughout Glasgow – and Scotland – was recognised. After two adjoining galleries were opened, the New Charing Cross closed in 1968 and Gerber opened the Compass Gallery.
Low exhibited widely throughout Britain, and an exhibition in Warsaw gave her particular pleasure. In 1986 she had a retrospective exhibition at the Third Eye Centre – also devoted to furthering Scottish artists. That exhibition was also seen at the Pier Gallery in Stromness. Low gifted three oils to the Pier some years ago, which hang prominently in the gallery. The gallery's director, Neil Firth, told The Scotsman yesterday: "The Pier Gallery was fortunate to receive these three pictures and they make a valuable addition to our collection. They were painted when she had a home on Hoy and, as an artist, she enjoyed responding to the challenges of the Orcadian sea and countryside. She distilled the essence of the landscape with a magical ability and brought a very special quality to depicting the light as it strikes the sea."
An old friend of Low's, Robert Burns provided the photograph that accompanies this obituary. He recalls: "It was taken in her Kelvinside flat in 1987. The painting was her favourite, which she never wanted to sell. It is of the sun circles over her beloved Hoy."
Low was awarded a D.Litt from Glasgow University in 1999 and later that year the Glasgow Art Club gave her a splendid celebratory dinner.
Low was a forthright and uncompromising character, an exacting and truthful artist of much subtlety and earthy integrity. Her love of Hoy, its rugged and exciting seascape and its people remained dear to her all her life.
She is survived by a son and a daughter.