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SOME art historians talk so enthusiastically about the detailed

academic appraisal and provenance of painting that they often leave the

interested lay listener with the impression that they actually derive

little visual pleasure or excitement from the works themselves.

This is certainly not so when listening to Edinburgh-born Dr Lindsay

Errington, an Assistant Keeper at the National Gallery of Scotland, who

describes herself as ''a failed artist.'' Unusually for an art

historian, she trained first as a painter and she has a strong feeling

for colour and design and the matiere of painting. It is not surprising,

then, to discover her overwhelming interest in Scottish painting,

particularly of the nineteenth century, for which she has a lively


After completing a course in drawing and painting at Camberwell School

of Art in London, Lindsay Errington subsequently studied art history at

the Courtauld Institute and then taught at Newcastle College of Art as

it was called in pre-polytechnic days. Later, while working on her

thesis for a PhD, part-time teaching kept body and soul together, but

she admits that she did not much enjoy the daily classroom slog.

''I very much wanted to be in Scotland and could scarcely believe my

luck when I was appointed to the National Gallery in 1972, the second

woman to hold a curatorial post. My male colleagues at the time asked if

I would like to take on the responsibility for the Scottish paintings in

the collection. They didn't, I think, believe they were doing me a

favour, but I was delighted,'' Dr Errington recalls.

Since then she has fought long and hard to secure greater recognition

-- and more funds -- for the Scottish section of the gallery and she

aims to achieve a properly representative collection of Scottish art.

When asked about the earliest Scottish paintings in the gallery,

Lindsay Errington said: ''There is a point in history when Scottish

painting, alas, becomes invisible; the early religious paintings were

later destroyed and our collection actually begins with the

seventeenth-century work of Jamesone.''

When her work schedule permits, Lindsay enjoys gardening at her

cottage on the edge of the Lammermuirs and walking her dog there. Her

three-year-old Arab horse, recently ''schooled,'' is a greatly prized

acquisition and she succinctly summed up her liking for the animal when

she remarked: ''It's really like having a work of art by a great master,

that one can lead on a rope.''

This year Lindsay Errington has two welcome opportunities to share her

knowledgeable enthusiasm for Scottish painting. One is the organisation

of a major exhibition of work by William McTaggart for the Edinburgh

Festival: ''A real labour of love for me as I think he was a marvellous

painter. I hope to have drawings and paintings from each period of his

life, including his student days at the Trustees Academy in the 1850s.''

McTaggart, she believes, was a brilliant draughtsman even then and the

people who seem to think that his human figures in his later large

landscapes and seascapes are mere smudges because he couldn't draw will

be proved entirely wrong. ''Some of his work may have been lurking

unseen for years in attics -- perhaps we will rediscover some of


Her other opportunity to further the acclaim of Scottish painting is,

in a sense, ambassadorial. Cambridge University have invited her to be

the visiting Slade Professor of Fine Art this term, an honour which she

much appreciates.

''Normally the person appointed takes up residence in one of the

colleges for a term and gives a series of lectures and some seminars.

However, because of my commitment with preparations for the McTaggart

exhibition, and with the approval of the Trustees of the National

Gallery, I shall commute between Cambridge and Edinburgh as much as

possible. I shall be the first Slade professor to choose to lecture on

Scottish painting and I hope to develop a theme linking painting and

writing in nineteenth-century Scotland.''