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  Anne Redpath (1895–1965), self-portrait, c.1958–60 Anne Redpath (1895–1965), self-portrait, c.1958–60
Redpath, Anne (1895–1965), painter, the second child of Thomas Brown Redpath (1863–1933), a tweed pattern weaver, and his wife, Agnes Milne, was born at 89 Scott Street, in the mill town of Galashiels, Selkirkshire, on 29 March 1895. Thomas Redpath's four children were given a strictly nonconformist upbringing. As the daughter of a tweed designer, Anne Redpath gained an early understanding of colour and texture. Years later describing the weaver's technique of colour flecking used for scumbling she explained: ‘I do with a spot of red or yellow in a harmony of grey, what my father did in his tweed’ (Anne Redpath, 1). She attended Hawick high school (1901–13) and in 1913 enrolled at Edinburgh College of Art. Parental permission for this course was granted with the proviso that she should concurrently train as an art teacher at Moray House, Edinburgh, where she qualified in 1917. Instruction at Edinburgh College of Art was rigorous and academic; among her tutors were Henry Linlott, Robert Burns, and D. M. Sutherland. Anne Redpath gained her diploma in 1917 and after a postgraduate year was awarded a travelling scholarship which, in 1919, enabled her to visit Brussels, Bruges, Paris, Florence, and Siena. She returned profoundly impressed by the works of the Sienese primitives.

On 21 September 1920 Anne Redpath married at Teviothead church James Beattie Michie (1891–1958), a young architect about to take up an appointment with the Imperial War Graves Commission in northern France. The house at St Martin, Pas-de-Calais, where their first two sons were born, was large and their finances strained. It was then that Anne Redpath began to decorate simple furniture with bright flowers, birds, and garlands, which later featured in her still-life paintings. Her family was her primary concern but by 1921 she had produced sufficient work, mainly watercolours in muted tones, for an exhibition at St Omer. Some years later James Michie became architect to a millionaire in the south of France. A third son was born and the family lived in idyllic surroundings at St Raphael and St Jean, Cap Ferrat. Anne Redpath's painting output was sparse but she maintained artistic contacts. The painter William Mactaggart who had been a fellow student at Edinburgh was a frequent visitor. In 1928 she exhibited at the casino at St Raphael.

In 1934 James Michie's employer lost his fortune. Anne Redpath and her sons returned to Hawick and James Michie found work in London. Soon after her return she began to show at the Royal Scottish Academy and in many group exhibitions. Many of her paintings at that time were competent landscapes of views around Hawick often recorded in her ‘Notes from Nature’ sketchbooks and painted in her studio. But it was in a domestic setting that her highly individual viewpoint expressed her affection for familiar household objects. Cups, jugs, teapots, and flowers disconcertingly displayed on a tilting table-top became characteristic of her style. The pure and effortless quality of her painting, particularly in the handling of white, could make a collection of flowers lyrical, almost ethereal. Early in the 1940s Redpath created one of her most significant works, The Indian Rug (‘Red Slippers’; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh). This painting signalled a release of ideas long held in reserve and presaged a new and liberated approach. The placing of a vivid red chair, comfortable slippers, and folk-art rug clearly defined on a black background and formalized into a flat surface pattern demonstrates her mastery of structure. The boldly painted Still Life with Orange Chair (1944; priv. coll.) also exemplifies a sense of continuity with the Scottish colourists Francis Cadell and Samuel Peploe.

From 1944 to 1947 Redpath was president of the Scottish Society of Women Artists. She became an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1947 and in 1952 was the first woman painter to be elected academician. Critical acclaim for her exhibition at the Scottish Gallery in 1950 brought public recognition for the distinction of her work but Redpath's vision was never static; she was responsive to post-war art movements and like Matisse, whom she admired, pursued her own rigorous path.

A journey to remote northern Spain in 1951 called for new strengths in Redpath's work. Her style radically altered becoming more emotive and her palette sombre reflecting the stark landscape and poverty of the hill villages as in Rain in Spain-Ubeda (1951; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh). Subsequent visits to Corsica, Brittany, and the Canary Islands released fresh colour harmonies; rich chestnut browns, purples, and rare pinks surged from her brush. The resultant landscapes, painted with new urgency and expressionist fervour, were enthusiastically received at the Scottish Gallery's 1960 Edinburgh festival exhibition.

In 1955 Anne Redpath became an OBE and was also granted an honorary LLD by Edinburgh University. The following year she attended a comprehensive exhibition of her work in the four main galleries of the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol. She became an academician of that society in 1959 and an associate of the Royal Academy in 1960. Redpath paintings were acquired by the Tate Gallery and many public collections. In her lifetime there were frequent exhibitions in Britain; she enjoyed the ensuing celebrity, wearing spectacular hats and designer clothes and talking with animation at convivial gatherings. On one occasion she discussed volubly with Chagall in fluent French the joys of being ‘an old peasant’ (Bourne, 54). This light-hearted acceptance of fame contrasts with her solemn self-portrait in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (another is in the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum) which indicates her steady contemplative nature. She was deeply interested in world affairs from which she felt that art should not be isolated. Many guests remember evenings spent in her colourful room among bright pictures and painted furniture discussing art, politics, and social justice. Her generous spirit and engagement with humanity give even her lesser works a life-enhancing quality. The mature paintings of golden baroque altars and richly glowing church interiors in Lisbon and Venice painted in her last years are considered by many to be her finest achievements. Earlier heart attacks had brought grave health warnings but, undaunted, Anne Redpath's determination to develop her work never faltered. Such inspired commitment and sustained vitality have ensured her an enduring place in the history of twentieth-century Scottish painting. Following a fall in her Edinburgh home, 7 London Street, Anne Redpath died on 7 January 1965 at 19 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh, and was cremated on 9 January at Warriston crematorium, Edinburgh. Her work is represented in public collections in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Preston, as well as in London and several Commonwealth galleries.

Ruth Jones

Sources  

G. Bruce, Anne Redpath (1974) · P. Bourne, Anne Redpath 1895–1965: her life and work (1989) · Anne Redpath, 1895–1965: all the works in the collection, no. 1 (1975) [exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Oct 1975] · L. Errington, Anne Redpath (1995) [exhibition catalogue, Aberdeen Art Gallery, 25 Nov 1995–27 Jan 1996] · T. Mullaly, ed., Anne Redpath … a memorial exhibition (1965) [exhibition catalogue, Edinburgh, Nov 1965] · P. Long, Anne Redpath 1895–1965 (1996) [exhibition catalogue, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 2 Nov 1996 – 19 Jan 1997] · DNB · private information (2004) [David Michie, son] · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert. · The Times (4 Jan 1965)

Archives  

Royal Scot. Acad., works and MSS · Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Archive, works and MSS  

FILM

 

BBC film shown in ‘Counterpoint’, 31 January 1961, directed by George Bruce; transcript in Bourne, Anne Redpath, 87


Likenesses  

L. Muszynski, oils, 1948, NPG · R. Philipson, group portrait, oils, c.1952 (Gathering at 7 London Street), Scot. NPG · A. Redpath, self-portrait, chalk drawing, c.1958–1960, Scot. NPG [see illus.] · A. Redpath, self-portrait, chalk drawing, c.1958–1960, Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow · S. Beadle, chalk drawing, 1963, Scot. NPG · L. Moser, photograph, Scot. NPG · A. Redpath, self-portrait, priv. coll. · photograph, repro. in The Times

Wealth at death  

£34,253 9s.: confirmation, 30 April 1965, NA Scot., SC 70/1/1586/710