BBC Scotland to tell The Story Of Scottish Art

The story of Scottish art and its impact on the international art world will be celebrated in a new four-part series on BBC Scotland.

Published: 1 September 2015
For 5,000 years, generations of artists from Scotland have been creating and innovating with extraordinary bravery. They’ve consistently pushed at the boundaries and questioned what it actually means to be a ‘Scottish' artist.
— Lachlan Goudie, artist and presenter

Presented by acclaimed artist Lachlan Goudie (pictured) the series covers 5000 years, from the earliest Neolithic art to the present day - the most ambitious television series about Scottish art in recent times.

Seen through the eyes of an artist, the programmes explore developments and innovations in art across the centuries, placing Scottish art in an international context and at the same time telling a compelling story about Scotland’s social and political history.

Lachlan Goudie explains: “Scotland’s artistic heritage is rich and complex. People often know about the ‘Scottish Colourists’ but when you look beyond this small group of painters, you realise that for 5,000 years, generations of artists from Scotland have been creating and innovating with extraordinary bravery. They’ve consistently pushed at the boundaries of what art can do and questioned what it actually means to be a ‘Scottish' artist.

“As a painter myself I feel a real urge to understand the motivations and the challenges that have confronted artists from Scotland throughout the centuries. How they’ve helped define their own culture whilst being informed and inspired by the most revolutionary international art movements of the day."

Lachlan has worked closely with the production teams on the writing of The Story Of Scottish Art, which will be shown on BBC Two Scotland this autumn. Throughout the series, he will be seen painting and sketching as he travels widely in Scotland, as well in France and Italy.

In the first programme, Lachlan’s journey into the Neolithic world takes him to Orkney, to the Ring of Brodgar, where standing stones have watched the seasons pass for thousands of years. On the island of Westray he meets an ancient figurine - the Westray Wife - the oldest sculpted human figure in the British Isles. He explores the sophisticated art of the Picts and the Gaels, the exuberant Renaissance period of the early Stewart Kings, and the destructive heights of the Reformation, when religious artworks were all but wiped out in Scotland.

In the second programme Lachlan reveals how the intellectual revolution of the Enlightenment and the classical influence of the continent gave a new generation of Scottish artists the confidence and the inspiration to forge a dazzling artistic landscape. Out of the ashes of the Reformation artists such as Allan Ramsay, Henry Raeburn and Horatio McCulloch would build a whole new cultural identity for Scotland.

In the third programme, Lachlan explores art at the turn of the 19th Century, when Scotland’s artists vigorously challenged the traditions they’d inherited. Embracing new ways of seeing and painting from the continent, they revolutionised Scottish art. From the Glasgow Boys’ intimate rural realism, to Arthur Melville’s brilliantly experimental watercolours; from Hill House, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s ‘total work of art’, to J.D Fergusson’s pioneering Scottish modernism, this generation transformed the perception of Scotland’s landscape and identity, at home and on a wider global stage.

In the final programme Lachlan looks at Scottish art in the 20th and 21st century. He begins with William McCance, who attempted to bring about a Scottish Renaissance in the visual arts, while a diaspora of artists including Alan Davie and William Gear courted controversy and played a vital role in the revolutions of post-war art. He discovers how Joan Eardley brought the city to life on canvass in the 1950s, just as John Bellany would do for the fishing villages of the east coast a decade later. Rebels such as Bruce McLean discuss how conceptual art came to play such an important role in recent times; and Lachlan meets Scotland’s most successful artist, Peter Doig, to probe the complexities of what it actually means to be a Scottish artist today.

Donalda Mackinnon, Head of Programmes and Services at BBC Scotland, says: “This is a major new series celebrating Scottish art, the latest in a range of BBC output reflecting Scottish culture and heritage, past and present.”