James Nigel McIsaac, Das Schloss (The Castle), 1936, Oil on canvas, Private collection © Family of the artist / image
Prudence Cumming Associates

A New Era: Edinburgh’s Avant-Garde Art World of the 1930s

During the 1930s, Edinburgh was the centre of a surprisingly progressive art world. Stanley Cursiter at the National Galleries of Scotland lobbied tirelessly for a Gallery of Modern Art, Hubert Wellington turned Edinburgh College of Art into one of the most liberal institutions of its kind and Herbert Read at Edinburgh University urged Scottish artists to look North, rather than to France, for inspiration for a national school. In this period of social and economic change organisations such as the Society of Scottish Artists, Royal Scottish Academy and the University of Edinburgh’s Fine Art Society included many cutting-edge European contemporary art in their exhibitions - from Edvard Munch and Paul Klee to Surrealism and Constructivism. It is little wonder that on moving from Edinburgh to London in 1937, the artist Margaret Mellis found the latter boring in comparison. A talk by Alice Strang, Senior Curator, Gallery of Modern Art.