Obituary: Louise Annand MBE, well-regarded Scottish artist, teacher and president of the J D Fergusson Foundation

Louise Annand
Louise Annand
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Born: 27 May, 1915, in Uddingston, Lanarkshire. Died: 6 January, 2012, in Glasgow, aged 96.

Louise Gibson Annand, artist and teacher, discerned a duality which ran all through her life. On the one hand was her academic bent; on the other, her artistic talent. Sometimes they intersected, sometimes ran in parallel. They resulted, incongruously, in her having one foot in the world of education and the other in bohemia, mingling with such luminaries as J D Fergusson and Margaret Morris.

She was the daughter of two schoolteachers, Walter Annand of Aberdeen and Emma Gibson of Dundee. Born in Uddingston, Lanarkshire, she spent the war years in her mother’s home town, moving back to Uddingston, when her father returned from the war and took up teaching posts first at Bellshill, then at Hamilton Academy.

It was at the latter that she took her Highers and was awarded medals both in art and in English/history.

With an eye to work prospects, Walter Annand sent his daughter to university rather than to art school, as she herself wished, so that when she graduated in 1937 it was with honours in English literature and language. Art had not been entirely neglected, however, and while studying for her degree by day, Miss Annand had attended art classes in the evening. After graduation, the art master at Jordanhill Teachers’ Training College was so impressed with her work that he dispatched her to night classes at Glasgow School of Art as well as giving instruction himself.

It was now that she met the painter J D Fergusson, who, at the prospect of war in Europe, had returned from France with the dancer Margaret Morris. It was Miss Morris’s failure to breach the no-women rule at the Glasgow Art Club which led to Fergusson’s founding of the New Art Club at 299 West George Street, which then opened its doors not only to women artists like Marie de Banzie, Isabel Babianska and Louise Annand herself, but to a lively circle which included the publisher William MacLellan. Having long disliked being a girl, Miss Annand at this time went under the alias of Richard or Dick, exhibiting under this name and abandoning the soubriquet only when boyfriends objected.

An interesting associate at this time was the writer Naomi Mitchison, whose books The Bull Calves and Little Boxes she illustrated and whose houseparties at Carradale she afterwards attended. She later illustrated for the writer Lavinia Derwent, who also became a friend.

Training complete, she took up teaching in both primary and secondary schools and, having heartily disliked classes at one time herself, must have had a measure of sympathy with the female pupil who one day exclaimed: “Ma Goad, I’m fed up! I wish I wis merriet an oot o here!”

Miss Annand herself moved out of schoolteaching when she was appointed in 1949 to the schools museum service, set up at Kelvingrove Galleries under the aegis of their director Tom Honeyman and financed by the education department. Here she worked till retirement in 1980, running the service for the last ten years as chief officer.

It was while at Kelvingrove that she introduced film as a teaching medium, helping to set up the Glasgow branch of the Educational Film (later Media) Association and producing films about Fergusson and Jessie M King, as well as the first on the life of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

All the while Miss Annand pursued her painting, mounting annual exhibitions on a group or solo basis. Her pictures explore for the most part barren landscapes and unfrequented corners: in Lanarkshire (“especially the rather duff bits”); odd bits of old Glasgow “before they fell down” (these being published in her Glasgow Sketchbook, 1988); mountains, which she scaled, notebook in hand, with the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club, and abstracts.

Into this last category comes her colourful composition, The New Art Club Meeting (now in Perth Art Gallery) with its symbolic representations of Fergusson, Morris and others.

In private life, Louise Annand was the wife of Alastair Matheson of Skye until his early death. Later, through Naomi Mitchison, she met and subsequently married Roderick MacFarquhar, secretary of the Highland Fund (precursor of the Highlands and Islands Development Board) and a former member of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. With her second husband, she made adventurous trips to Lapland, Cuba, China, the Faroes, Russia and to Barbados before he, too, predeceased her. Throughout the years, her home was an open refuge for friends in passage or in need.

Despite her dual existence as artist and teacher, Miss Annand found time to act as a member of the business committee of the University of Glasgow and as chairman of the Glasgow Graduates Association. She served on the Fine Art Commission for Scotland and as president both of the Society of Scottish Women Artists (now VAS) and of the Glasgow Society of Women Artists.

She was also president of the J D Fergusson Foundation, which, under her leadership, eventually fulfilled its function of finding a home for Fergusson’s pictures, with the establishment in Perth of the Fergusson gallery in co-operation with Perth and Kinross Council.

As at school, so in later life, both aspects of Louise Annand’s identity were to be publicly honoured. Her role as educator was marked with the award of the MBE in 1980, while Glasgow University recognised the artist with an honorary doctorate in 1997. Her book about J D Fergusson (1939 – 61) was published in 2003, while a retrospective exhibition of her painting was held at the Lillie Gallery, Milngavie in 2004.

She is survived by her nieces, Rachel and Alex.

Douglas Kynoch