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Obituary: Anda Paterson, painter and co-founder of the influential Glasgow Group

Died: May 18, 2022.

ANDA Carolyn Paterson, who has died of a brain haemorrhage at the age of 87, was a figurative painter and an exceptionally gifted draftswoman who worked in a period when such talents were quite unfashionable, writes Douglas Erskine.

She was in many ways an artist who went against the grain. While at the Glasgow High School for Girls, she disagreed with her de ella art teachers, who pressed her to paint polite still lifes. At Glasgow School of Art, where she studied drawing and painting from 1952 to 1958, she sometimes clashed with her teacher, the eminent colourist David Donaldson, because of her commitment to a linear approach.

Figural studies and landscapes from this time, built on a solid foundation of observation and documentation, show that Anda was confidently developing a highly distinctive style.

Her figural studies, in particular, yield lasting pleasure but pack an emotional punch. She received numerous prizes for her work from her and in 1956 she secured a post at Hospitalfield, the residential art school in Arbroath. A highly commended Post Diploma scholarship followed in 1957.

Anda went through art school with the talented artist James (Jim) Spence, and the pair, always inseparable, married in 1960.

In 1958, along with their close friend, the late James Morrison, they founded the Glasgow Group, an ambitious artists’ co-operative which showcased the work of a new generation, frustrated by a lack of exhibiting opportunities in Glasgow.

The trio invited a group of their contemporaries – Alan Fletcher, Carole Gibbons, Alasdair Gray, Jack Knox and other talented artists – to show work with them in Glasgow’s McLellan Galleries. Critical and commercial success meant that the annual exhibitions of the Glasgow Group soon became a key part of the Scottish art calendar.

As the decades passed, emerging artists were welcomed into the group and greatly benefitted from the support offered by Anda, Jim and their friends. Anda contributed to every Glasgow Group show from 1958 to 1998.

Anda was also won acclaim for her work in a number of solo exhibitions, staging successful one-woman shows at Strathclyde University, the Lillie Art Gallery and the Compass Gallery, to name but a few.

She made innumerable contributions to group exhibitions, and notably to important shows with the National Gallery of Canada and Fundacion Alzante, Bilbao. Spanish and specifically Iberian themes often unite the work across exhibitions.

She delighted in the colors and quality of light in Spain and Portugal, which are reflected in the scarlets, cobalts and umbers which saturate the canvas or paper and invest her mature work with great vibrancy and wonderfully rich textures.

The influence of masters from across Europe like Goya, Egon Schiele and Käthe Kollwitz are plain to see in her body of work, particularly in her drawings and etchings.

Whether robust or delicate, depicting the heaviness of a peasant’s arthritic hands or the sprightliness of a horse breaking into a canter, the quality of the line in her best works is truly exquisite.

She was born in Glasgow and was surrounded from early childhood by older relatives from the Highlands, England and across Europe, so developing a respect for the elderly and an enthusiasm for the richness of life and all the ways it is lived.

It is therefore no surprise that her elderly relatives became her favorite early subjects – her first painting was a portrait of her grandfather, by then in his nineties – and that these same subjects were the source of great inspiration throughout her long creative life.

Anda’s desire to depict ordinary, “unexceptional” people with sympathy and sincerity was always greater than her eagerness to simply draw on the styles of the artists she admired.

She took great pleasure in fully engaging with her subjects while she drew or painted them, listening to the stories they could tell of their lives, and commenting that, by painting a person, one can remember everything about them.

Although sometimes unsettling, Anda’s work also celebrates the idiosyncrasies of the characters she met while poking fun at human relationships. She put it succinctly in saying that she depicts “the messy untidiness of human life, [which is] on one hand ridiculous and comic, on the other, struggling, anxious and tragic”. She was directly engaged in exploring the human condition.

Her reluctance to accept a job at Gordonstoun is a reflection of her admiration for anyone and everything “down to earth”. She balanced her freelance practice with full-time teaching roles at state schools in the west of Scotland, including Jordanhill College School, where she was Principal Teacher of Art for some three years.

She gained a reputation as a serious educator with a genuine desire to develop the artistic potential of her pupils by placing emphasis on the traditional techniques which she cherished.

Anda continued to draw, paint and etch long after her retirement from full-time teaching, contributing to exhibitions until only a year or two before her death. She commented that “with irony and poetic justice, I am rapidly developing a strong resemblance to my drawings of vulnerable and time-worn people.”

She is survived by her children, Judith, Anna and Paul. Jim preceded her in 2016.

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