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Eric Auld

Artist

Artist

Born: January 3, 1931; Died: December 24, 2013.

Eric Auld, who has died aged 82, was the artist who brought colour to granite and depicted his city and countryside in an astonishing variety of hues. Almost his entire output was centred on subjects in and around Aberdeen - land, mountains, sea cliffs and buildings, the gorgeous eccentricity of his palette pulling in colour that others were blind to see.

Auld's fascination for the outdoors threw old landscapes into new focus. An active hillwalker, he sketched the high tops, with the finished oils introducing the summits to a new buying public.

He applied his ability to see into the landscape to produce a highly original series of townscapes of his home city in the 1960s.

First off the easel was a large oil where a single huge vertical slash of Union Street, the principal thoroughfare, was banked by slabs of blues and yellows on either side, terminating in the street meeting the sea at the top. This proved an opening to his skill for taking a real subject and abstracting it - yet doing so in a manner where Aberdeen remained instantly recognisable.

Years later, he wrote: "I studied at Gray's and acquired the skills of draughtsmanship and painting. At that stage, the 'seen' world was uppermost, but I felt that I wanted to portray feelings and thoughts about existence, and (this) required a different approach."

He described his work as "imagination based". His was "natural painting environment" in which historic landmarks of towers and steeples blend with the 21st-century steel and concrete. His work has been commissioned and bought by banks, councils, companies and corporate institutions across the UK.

Aberdeen-born Auld was one of the most stylistic artists to emerge in the city in the latter part of the 20th century and he inherited some of their painterly abilities from his parents Alex and Peggy.

Alex, a one-time private in the Gordon Highlanders, established a house-painting business and, while attending Gray's School of Art, met Peggy Swanson, a dark-haired fellow student of great presence, chosen for her features as a model for painters Madge Mitchell and Charles Hemingway.

As a boy at Robert Gordon's College, Auld never wanted to be other than an artist. At Gray's from 1948, his tutors and mentors included Alberto Morrocco, Hugh Adam Crawford and Bob Sivell, and Auld later recorded his debt to them in helping him mature into a painter. His first showcase for his burgeoning talent came while he was still a student when he made use of a spare room in the city's Gaumont Cinema to hold a one-man show.

Winning the Robert Brough Scholarship allowed him to travel and paint on mainland Europe for a year while visiting the greatest galleries. His work from that year abroad formed his second Gaumont exhibition.

During his Gray's years, he and three student friends, Bill Baxter, Donald Buyers and Bill Ord, pursued the idea of working together. They formed the painting group ABBO, the name taken from their surname initials. In the decade from 1957, the four exhibited across the UK and in the Netherlands. The 1960 ABBO exhibition in Glasgow's McLellan Galleries caused one reviewer to comment: "(ABBO) are obviously intelligently affected by the best in European art of our time; and the excellence of their works is a clear reminder from far-off Aberdeen that the well-being of art in Scotland has always depended upon its Europeanness."

This notion of the European was an early attraction to the youthful Auld. In 1950, he and Bill Baxter, both kilted, hitchhiked to Paris to see the Louvre.

Auld taught art, first at Aberdeen Academy where his head was the watercolourist Alexander Burns, and latterly he became principal teacher at Kincorth Academy. He took early retirement at age 55 to concentrate on painting.

Tall, and with an Italianate regard about him, the bow-tied Auld befitted the popular notion of an artist. His lean frame was the result of a lifetime in physical activity - swimming, rugby, basketball and the hills.

He was a staunch Aberdonian, a Burgess of the city, a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and a citizen not simply leading the cry in condemning architectural wantonness of the 1960s, but actively suggesting alternatives.

Until his last few weeks, he was still campaigning, writing, cajoling, persuading and buttonholing on current issues that included the future of Union Terrace Gardens, modernisation plans for his beloved Aberdeen Art Gallery and the future of the area in front of the splendidly restored Marischal College. For more than 20 years, he donated paintings to Aberdeen charities and sales from his works raised well into six figures.

He married Pat (Patricia Charles) in 1957 and is survived by her, their three daughters Catriona, Fiona and Deirdre, and six grandchildren.

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