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l Documents of a Stream herman de vries’s beautiful collections of
leaves, spices, homoeopathic remedies, even a carpet of lavender, are a balm to any Fringe-weary eye. The Dutch-born artist treads the line where philosophy and botany meet. Documents of a Stream: The Real Works, 1970—1992, Royal Botanic Garden, unti127Sept, £2 (£1).
I James Pryde Imposing, theatre-inspired works in oil by an intriguing Scottish painter and gallivanter, forgotten shortly after his death in 1941 and now rightfully restored to glory.
James Pryde (1866—1 941 ), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, until 11 Oct, £3 (£1.50).
l Symbols of Survival A retrospective exhibition of works by one of the country's most prominent modern artists. Occasionally the inﬂuence of Magritte can be discerned in his Highlands-inspired paintings.
Symbols of Survival: The Art of Will Maclean, Talbot Rice Gallery, until 12 Sept, £1 (50p).
I Miro Sculptures Britain‘s largest-ever exhibition of the Catalan surrealist artist’s crazy constructions, mostly on the theme of women, birds and stars, of course. Miro Sculptures, Royal Scottish Academy, until 20 Sept, £3 (£1.50). I Gaetan Gatian do Clerambault Extraordinary photographs of the veiled women of Morocco, taken around 1915 by a police psychiatrist whose secret obsession was with the body, and the way it could be hidden with veils and vestments.
Gaetan Gatian de C lerambault: Psychiatrist and Photographer, French Institute, until 4 Sept, free.
Andrew Gibbon Williams looks back over 150 years of the Scotish Gallery.
On the walls of Scotland’s Edwardian villas, from Morningside to Bearsden, hang a remarkable number of usually quite decent collections of Scottish pictures. Next time you find yourself in such a house, sneak a look at the back of one of them. There, nine times out of ten , you will discover a faded label reading: ‘Aitken Dott, Fine Art and Picture Dealers’.
Aitken Dott has now been in business for a century and a half, and so, to celebrate this anniversary, the gallery’s present director Guy Peploe (yes, the grandson of the best of the Colourists, S. J. Peploe) has put on a show intended to give a retrospective impression of his gallery’s achievement.
Of course, with such a distinguished history as Aitken Dott’s to plumb, the exhibition itself was bound to turn into a roll-call of anybody who has been anybody in Scottish art since the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. And that is precisely what it is.
Beginning with dramatisations of scenes from Sir Walter Scott‘s novels by that eminence grise of mid-Victorian Scottish art, Robert Scott Lauder, and works by Scott Lauder pupils like Robert Herdman (The Captive of Loch Leven is a touching romance upon the fate of our silliest monarch), the exhibition continues by tracing a spectacular path through the francophile aesthetic of the Colourists and the painterly approach of the Edinburgh School to culminate with the risky expressionism of John Bellany.
By necessity the pictures are of uneven quality - Horatio McCulloch, for example, painted far more impressive pictures than a Highland Keep, and Elizabeth Blackadder, a pretty water-colourist whose charm escapes me, but who has been one of the gallery‘s more recent luminaries is inadequately represented — but this is scarcely the point. Over the past 150 years Aitken Dott has done as much if not more for Scottish artists and Scottish art than our national institutions.
In the gallery’s ﬁn-de-siécle heyday Peter McOmish Dott the progressive son of the ﬁrm’s founder did much to
boost the reputation of William McTaggart. It is intriguing to see the original account book in which is listed the 1901 sale of McTaggart‘s The Storm to a gentleman named Mr Andrew Carnegie (price £1000!) and it was not long before he was promoting the avant-garde which in those days meant artists like Fergusson, Hunter and Cadell. Most of these talents were more or less nurtured and occasionally helped out financially, and the gallery has, moreover, been fortunate in ' McOmish Dott’s successors who have all, by and large, been people of taste with sympathetic dispositions towards artists.
Not surprisingly for a gallery of such longevity, however, there has been a down-side to Aitken Dott’s activities. During the 605 and 705, for example, it exhibited almost exclusively the works of artists who viewed their Aitken Dott sales as a method of augmenting their state-paid incomes as art college lecturers.
Still Life with Tulips by S. J. Peploa
With the exception ofGillies, whose integrity even now shines through his admirable still-lifes, these were a pretty cynical bunch and the quality of the gallery‘s reputation suffered as a result. This fallow period, however, is now past, and the gallery’s most recent stable - artists such as Rae, McLaren and Convery — take a strikingly more professional attitude towards their vocations than their predecessors.
Rumours ofthe imminent financial collapse of Scotland’s oldest established gallery have surfaced regularly over the past few years but, fortunately, Aitken Dott: The Scottish Gallery has always lived to ﬁght another day. Ifit can weather the current recession then there is no reason at all why a second catalogue subtitled ‘The First 300 Years‘ should not grace bookshelves of the 22nd century connoisseur of Scottish art.
The First 150 Years is at the Scottish Gallery, 94 George Street until 9 Sept.
54 The List 28 August - 10 September 1992