Obituary: Thomas ‘Kim’ Redpath, influential art teacher who forged a distinguished painting career

Kim Redpath
Kim Redpath
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Thomas ‘Kim’ Kinmont Redpath SSA, artist and teacher. Born: 30 March, 1925, in Aberdeen. Died 16 January, 2018, in Hamilton, aged 92.

Kim Redpath ­clearly had the soul of an artist in his DNA: his mother, brother and cousin were artists and his aunt was the celebrated painter Anne Redpath, best known for her vivid still life and ­landscape studies.

It was little surprise, therefore, that he gravitated towards art as a profession. But, with a wife and two sons to support, a career as an art teacher was his chosen route – one that would also enable him to pursue his own artistic interests.

For 35 years he taught ­generations of youngsters while simultaneously ­creating an extraordinary catalogue of work, staging numerous ­one-man and group shows and leaving a legacy not only of his own pieces in private and public collections, but of ­professional artists who bloomed under his influence and mentoring.

“He was the most inspirational teacher,” said artist and former sculpture lecturer ­Carol Taylor who was eight when Redpath began teaching her at Dalry Primary School. “I have been an artist all my life and that’s thanks to him”.

Taylor went on to curate many of his exhibitions, including several at ­Edinburgh’s Dundas Street Gallery plus a solo show to mark his 90th birthday, ­helping him to achieve the recognition he deserved in his own right.

Redpath, whose work included some exceptional bold line and watercolour life drawings, was born in ­Aberdeen, the son of William Redpath, a maths and science teacher, and his wife Carol, a teacher and artist. His father was Anne Redpath’s eldest brother and his mother had studied with Anne at ­Edinburgh College of Art.

Young Redpath, who had twin siblings, William, who went on to become an architect and abstract painter, and Gillian, who died aged just two, was educated at Hawick High School. When he was 14 the loss of his little sister was compounded by the death of his mother and following that family tragedy he and his brother spent a great deal of time with his aunt Anne and her three sons.

The influence of such an artistic heritage was inescapable: Anne was one of the ­Edinburgh School of artists and her son David Michie went on to become head of drawing and painting at Edinburgh College of Art.

By the time he was 17, ­Redpath was studying at Edinburgh College of Art but a year or so later his studies were interrupted by war ­service with the Royal Corps of Signals in North Africa from 1943 to 1946. There, dug into the sands of the Egyptian desert, he was a radio controller, ­proficient lightweight boxer and frustrated artist. Desperate to draw, he somehow secured access to Egyptian Army ­stables where he was allowed to sketch their beautiful prancing horses. He filled dozens and dozens of sketchbooks with his equine drawings and was devastated when a freak storm flooded his bunker and his work was lost.

Following his return to Edinburgh College of Art in 1946, he spent a post-graduate scholarship year in France before embarking on teacher training at Edinburgh’s Moray House. By that time he had married his first wife, Babs, an artist, with whom he had his sons.

His schools career began at Galashiels in 1950 and took him to various establishments, including Glasgow in the 1950s and to Castle Douglas in the early 1960s where he worked at the progressive free school Kilquhanity House.

Accompanied by his second wife, Vivien, also an artist, and her son, Alec, Redpath went on to work at Dalry in Kircudbrightshire at a new local ­secondary school. Fortunately for the pupils at the local primary, among them Carol Taylor, the secondary roll was still small and spare capacity allowed Redpath to help out at the primary.

By the late 1970s, and divorced for a second time, he had married his third wife Morag and was teaching in Hamilton. He retired from there in 1985 but continued to tutor community art classes in the area for another 15 years, until the age of 75.

Meanwhile, as a member of both the New Scottish Group, a society of painters founded by J D Fergusson, and the Scottish Society of Artists, Redpath had been a prolific painter, favouring watercolours and producing a large body of work which displayed a great fluidity of line.

“If you watched his hands when he was drawing there was just this incredible relaxed, really modest, confidence of line,” said Taylor.

Hugely proud of his aunt Anne, he was influenced by her sense of vibrant colour, pushing his own use of watercolour to extremes, and by her technique of painting a still life from above. His work hangs at the capital’s Scottish National Portrait Gallery and in private collections at home, in ­Canada, the USA, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Over the years he held one-man shows across the country. He also exhibited in group shows in Fife, at Wasps studios and London’s Fine Art Society.

In 2015, a retrospective to mark the 90th birthday of the man described as a complete romantic was held at Biggar’s Corn Exchange and included one of his horse drawings, an echo of those that had ­sustained his love of art seven decades earlier.

He is survived by his wife Morag, twin sons Tom and Adam, stepson Alec and extended family.

ALISON SHAW