Craigie Aitchison: A Life in Colour
Author(s): Cate Haste
Year published: October 2014
Publisher: Lund Humphries
Total Pages: 240
Illustrations: Includes 190 colour and 15 b&w illustrations
This fully illustrated study of the life and work of Scottish artist Craigie Aitchison (1926-2009) is the first book to cover the entire oeuvre of a painter whose distinctive and powerfully evocative style has earned him widespread public and critical acclaim. Award-winning writer Cate Haste draws for the first time on family archives, letters, published interviews with the painter, and new interviews with those who knew Aitchison to explore the relationship of his life to his work, the influences which shaped his visual imagination, the emergence of his distinctive themes, and the development of his painting style.
Craigie Aitchison was born in Edinburgh and studied at the Slade School of Art under William Coldstream and Robert Medley. In 1954 he was one of ‘Six Young Contemporaries’ who showed at Gimpel Fils gallery in London, and the following year he was awarded a British Council Scholarship to study in Italy. His encounter with the exuberance of Catholic churches and Quattrocento frescoes and the vivid colours of the Tuscan landscape had a profound influence on his art. Later, he exhibited alongside the major figures of his day – Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Euan Uglow and Michael Andrews. His commissioned work included a Calvary for Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, four panels for Truro Cathedral, Cornwall, a Christmas Millennium stamp for the Royal Mail, and stage designs for Northern Ballet. He also designed neck-ties, fabrics and ceramics for the Royal Academy.
At the centre of Aitchison’s poetic vision was his sophisticated use of colour and shape, giving eloquent meaning to his deceptively simple subjects and his distillation of each image – still-life, crucifixion, landscape, portrait – to its very essence of beauty. Cate Haste’s highly readable account will be widely welcomed by the many admirers and collectors of the work of an extraordinary artist.