Obituaries: Shand Hutchison, artist and teacher

ONE of Scotland’s leading post-war artists and arts educators

Shand Hutchison, artist and teacher. Picture: Contributed
Shand Hutchison, artist and teacher. Picture: Contributed

Shand Hutchison, artist and teacher.

Born: 17 August, 1920, near Dalkeith.

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Died: 25 April, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 94.

Shand Hutchison was one of the leading artists and art educators of the post-war period in Scotland; he was also one of the most long-lived, being able to recall details of his student days at Edinburgh College of Art in the late 1930s with pin-sharp detail.

Hutchison was born in his grandmother’s house, on the Buccleuch estate on the River Esk near Dalkeith in 1920. His unusual first name came from an ancestor who had lost her first husband and married a James Shand. His surname was used by the family thereafter, but Shand Hutchison was the first to acquire it as a first name.

He recalled with some pride that he had never come across anyone else with the same name. His father and grandfather were accomplished amateur artists and inspired the young Shand to paint from an early age.

His family moved to North Berwick when he was six. He attended North Berwick High School and then enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art in 1939. The following year he joined the RAF and was assigned to the RAF Signals.

One of his more unusual tasks involved painting shark’s teeth onto the fronts of American Tomahawk aircraft. From 1942-44 he worked as a radio officer seconded to British Oversees Airways in Lagos.

Following his demobilisation in 1946 Hutchison returned to Edinburgh College of Art to complete his course; his tutors included William Gillies, William MacTaggart and Donald Moodie.

He became a close friend of fellow student Alan Davie (1920-2014): in 1947-48 they rented a flat together in Frederick Street and remained firm friends for more than 60 years.

He graduated in 1949 and attended Moray House teacher training college, coming top in his year. He took up his first teaching post at Carrickvale School, to the west of Edinburgh.

In the early 1950s he had a studio in Cockburn Street in Edinburgh, and there produced some of his best work, including Fish Fence, 1953, which was bought by the Arts Council of Great Britain that same year and was subsequently gifted to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Hutchison retained a vivid memory of the great Van Gogh exhibition which he saw in Glasgow in 1948. His direct influences came from English artists, particularly Graham Sutherland and Paul Nash, but the landscape elements were invariably grounded in the Lothians and Berwickshire. The sun and moon are prominent and recurring features of his work of this period.

He exhibited with the Society of Scottish Artists from 1951 and at the Royal Scottish Academy from 1953. His work was included in a number of exhibitions organised by the Arts Council from 1953 onwards, including Four Scottish Painters, an Edinburgh Festival show in 1963.

He married Ruth Wilson, a fellow student at Edinburgh College of Art, in 1954. Around this time they took a holiday to Figueres in Spain and plucked up the courage to call on Salvador Dalí, who lived in nearby Port Lligat.

Hutchison retained a clear memory of the bear which doubled as a coat rack in the foyer, and of the famous sofa, shaped in the form of Mae West’s lips, upon which he and Ruth sat as Shand chatted in faltering French with the gracious and receptive superstar Surrealist.

From 1954 to 1959 he taught at the Royal High School in Edinburgh, then became head of a large art department at the newly-opened Gracemount Secondary School to the south of Edinburgh.

The department’s programme proved very successful, with students winning national and international prizes. He resigned in 1965 to become Advisor in Educational Technology for the Lothian Regions at Dean Centre (the building is now part of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art). Here he dealt with audio-visual requirements and training for art departments across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

He was editor and managing editor of the journal of NECCTA (the National Educational Closed-Circuit Television Association) for 13 years. He retired in 1984.

Throughout his teaching career, his own painting necessarily took second place, although he exhibited regularly at the annual shows of the Royal Scottish Academy (the Duke of Edinburgh bought a painting he exhibited in 1962) and the Scottish Society of Artists.

A dapper dresser with a trademark bow-tie and Van-Dyck goatee, he was often to be seen at private views and arts functions; his cheerful demeanour and wealth of knowledge meant that he was always surrounded by friends. He was a long-standing and much-cherished member of the Scottish Arts Club, where he was president from 1968-70, and again from 1992-94.

Hutchison died peacefully, at his home in Portobello. He is survived by his wife Ruth and by two children, Jane and Christopher, and by a grandson, Hugo.