3rd Mar, 2019 13:00

The Scottish Contemporary Art Auction

Lot 543


* JAMES HOWIE (SCOTTISH 1931 - 2011),
oil on board, signed, titled and dated Dec 1991 verso
63cm x 81cm
Label verso: Bruton Gallery, Bruton, Somerset. With title and date.
Note: When in 1982 the renowned Glasgow artic critic Denys Sutton was invited to choose the finest 25 painters of the 20th century his choice included Augustus John, Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon and a comparatively unknown Dundonian, Jimmy Howie, who eschewed the conventional art scene. Later that year John Schlesinger made a television programme about him in which Howie explored his attitude and relative lack of commercial success: "Either one paints as a vocation or as a career, it is probably impossible to mix the two." Howie was later offered and refused a chair in a leading Scottish art college on the grounds that the teaching would interfere with his painting. Jimmy Howie was born in Dundee in 1931, the son of a printer at DC Thomson, and he loved the city dearly. He attended the Harris Academy and then the city's college of art, where he concentrated on learning complex techniques in glazing. After two years of national service, latterly as a sergeant running an educational facility in Liverpool, he spent time in Ibiza and then in an advertising agency in Jamaica and worked for a while as a gesso boy - preparing canvases with glue and chalk - in London, learning in particular the art of canvas stretching and frame making. In 1983 when he spent a year on the waterless Spanish island of Formentera where he mixed his own paints, made his own gesso from rabbit skin and chalk and experimented with traditional glazes. His signature works were large canvases with colours drawn from the soft pallet of the semi-wilderness but often with large dark areas for contrast. Some termed these works gloomy and introspective but their ambers often glowed and their greens shone and others felt that they seemed to turn up the volume on life itself. Such works sold well. He was widely praised by many and would usually hold one show a year, though he only produced around half a dozen works a year, and refused to play the "art game". He was happier sitting in his studio in Dundee listening to a test match as he reworked, yet again, one of his masterpieces, than being out at art parties and never made nearly as much money as he might have. He made no pretence of his almost biological need to paint, and more than once compared it to his other great need - to dance. But Jimmy was no mere unworldly artist for he was well read and politically aware and, although naturally cheerful, he was furious at some of the art initiatives that came to Dundee due to what he once termed the "dodgy men in silly glasses sent to put us right". Public collections include Glasgow University, Dundee Art Gallery, The Scottish Arts Council & The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Howie's paintings very rarely appear at auction and this is believed to be the first since two were sold by McTear's in 2016 acchieving hammer prices of £3600 and £4000 (lot 64 18/9/16 and lot 19 27/11/16).


A condition report is offered as an indication of any issues visible to the naked eye. As none of our staff is a professional conservator or restorer, buyers must satisfy themselves in respect of condition and McTear’s can provide contact details of local professionals who can provide fully comprehensive expert reports, usually for a modest charge. The condition report does not form part of any contract between McTear's and the buyer, and all lots are offered "as is" in accordance with our Terms of Business available on our website.


Sold for £3,400
Estimated at £3,000 - £5,000

Condition Report

Very good overall condition. No visible signs of damage or known issues.

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