Norman MacCaig, 1910 - 1996.  Poet

© Alex Main

Alex Main

Norman MacCaig, 1910 - 1996. Poet

about 1996

Cat Knops, Executive Assistant to the Director-General This Portrait of the Month is selected by Cat Knops, Executive Assistant to the Director-General

This portrait of Norman MacCaig (1910 – 1996) by Alex Main, achieves what I believe to be the aim of portraiture: he captures the essence of MacCaig’s character and personality.  Main has not made the portrait true to life, but has given us a deeper sense of who MacCaig was by ensuring the sculpture reflects him as a person. 

MacCaig was one of the foremost Scottish poets of the twentieth century, a contemporary of Hugh McDiarmid and Sorley MacLean.  The subject matter of his poems, although they were written in English not Scots, was predominantly rooted in Scotland.  Although MacCaig’s poetry has a strong Scottish flavour, its themes are universal.  His poems work much like a portrait; they provide us with the character of a place, an emotion, an experience.  Through focussing on the particular, he provides us with a lens to the universal.

MacCaig’s poems touch lightly upon their subjects, often humorously, with each word a careful layer in the final picture.  It is this characteristic in particular which I feel Alex Main has captured in his portrait.  The sculpture of MacCaig gives us his outline and his recognisable features which captures the essence of the man and poet with the same lightness and humour MacCaig used in his poetry. In doing so, Main allows us a window by which to see his wider character.

In a sense, this parallels the Portrait of a Nation project which aims to capture the spirit of Scotland, its history and its people, and thereby encourage a deeper insight into our own country.