Alexander Goudie (1933-2004) holds a place in Art History as ‘one of Scotland’s finest figurative painters.’ A member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Goudie’s diverse oeuvre shows that throughout his artistic career he mastered many subjects and media in his signature loose and colourful style.
In April 2016 Mall Galleries held a retrospective exhibition of Goudie’s work, including numerous portraits, still life pieces, landscapes and narrative works in paint, sketch and sculpture. Arguably the most intriguing images in the exhibition, which hinted at Goudie’s lifelong preoccupation with witches, were illustrations of ‘Tam o’Shanter’. A true Scot, Goudie was enchanted by Robert Burns’ 1790 poem, and produced this narrative cycle of paintings in 2000 to bring the macabre tale to life. It was surprising and fascinating to see these darker and more personal works from his late career hanging alongside more light-hearted earlier pictures. Through this body of work, both the man and his art were remembered with great affection and fondness, each piece gaining a new element of poignancy.
We are lucky to have five of Goudie’s original mixed media paintings available on our online platform, Buy Art | Buy Now. Dating from between 1980-1995, each individual work is infused with Goudie’s joy and enthusiasm for paint, and together the pieces crystallise his later career to its most inspired moments.
Three of the works are charming still life flower scenes, Wild Flowers in Vase 1985, Poppies 1995, and (perhaps a nod towards the influence of Vincent Van Gogh), Sunflowers 1980. Each is distinct from the next, interpreting the subject with such brightness that the finished image is stunning in its simplicity and vitality. Villa Kerjane, Sunset, painted in 1985, is comparatively a more muted and tonal piece, portraying a Brittany landscape. Goudie married a native of Brittany, and the peace he felt in this rural and dusky environment is communicated through the purples and blues of sky and water, dashed with orange highlights, creating a quiet and moving scene.
Finally, Peacock is a more enigmatic image. Goudie was famously inspired by Oscar Wilde’s tragic one-act masterpiece ‘Salome’ and Richard Strauss’ operatic adaptation of the story. In 1990, the Scottish Opera commissioned Goudie to design lavish sets and costumes for the production, yet the project never came to fruition due to a lack of funding. However, Goudie’s preparatory designs remained, filled with whimsy and magic. Peacock is in fact his curtain design for the opera. Although certainly drawing from Aubrey Beardsley’s seminal 1894 illustration for Oscar Wilde’s ‘Salome’, in which the eponymous villain-heroine blinds a character with her beauty while wearing a decadent peacock skirt, Goudie reworked the motif with the arcing gestures and vibrant colours so fundamental to his work. Imagine how sumptuous this design would have looked as a heavy velvet curtain if the production had gone ahead...
By Anna Preston