21st Aug, 2022 12:00

The Scottish Contemporary Art Auction

  Lot 23


oil on board, signed and dated '79, titled label verso
image size 58cm x 78cm, overall size 69cm x 89cm
Handwritten artist's label verso.
Note: Bill Birnie studied at Glasgow School of Art under Gilbert Spencer and then at Hospitalfield under Ian Fleming. After graduating, he joined the staff at Hyndland Secondary School in 1952. That same year he was also elected a member of the Society of Scottish Artists (SSA). In 1958, he became a founder member of the Glasgow Group and formed the Glasgow Group Society, of which he was Vice-President for 32 years. In 1965, he was elected a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW), a society of which he also became Vice-President and Treasurer. He became Principal Art Teacher at Douglas Academy, near Bearsden, and later at Gryffe High, near Kilbarchan. Bill's abilities not only as a teacher but also as an administrator were noticed by the Department of Education and he was soon appointed Head Examiner in Art for Scotland. He still managed to maintain a very active exhibiting schedule and showed in all the main public galleries and many of Scotland's best commercial galleries. His work was enthusiastically collected and increasingly sought after. He was elected a member of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Art (RGI) and of the Paisley Art Institute (PAI). In the early years, he painted from his garden, showing the village of Kilbarchan in its changing seasons, under a quiet blanket of winter snow, or framed in a blazing sunset through autumnal trees. Later visits to France and Italy with his artist wife, Cynthia Wall, whom he married in 1953, brought new subject matter, cafe scenes, vine groves, Italian clifftop villages, and the crumbling facades of palaces and churches of Venice. It was characteristic of the man that when told that his illness was terminal, he calmly put his affairs in order and started work for a final one-man show at the Open Eye Gallery (Edinburgh) the scene of so many of his successful shows. Unsurprisingly, the exhibition was a complete sell-out. In recent years there has been a widely acknowledged acceleration in the prices achieved at auctions around the UK for William Birnie's paintings. In the Scottish Contemporary Art Auction of 8th November 2020 lot 567 "The Red House" (Kilbarchan) a 60 x 90cm oil sold for £3000 (hammer) which, not for the first time in recent years, set a new auction record for a painting by William Birnie.


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Sold for £850
Estimated at £800 - £1,200

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