Exhibition marks birthday

Kirkcudbright artist John Halliday
Kirkcudbright artist John Halliday

Renowned Kirkcudbright artist John Halliday is having his 80th birthday marked with a new exhibition.

In July, Halliday celebrated his 80th birthday at his Kirkcudbright home, three doors along from the house in which he was born.

Though he is a painter with an international reputation whose work hangs in many prestigious collections, being back in his native town was always his aspiration and his homecoming was the culmination of a remarkable artistic odyssey.

Halliday is a direct link with the heyday or the artistic community on which Kirkcudbright’s Artists Town designation rests. He grew up in the town in the inspiring days when artists such as Jessie M King, E A Taylor and Charles Oppenheimer were active. His talent was recognised and nurtured by the distinguished Kirkcudbright-based painter Cecile Walton who encouraged him to go to Glasgow School of Art.

European travel fostered an enduring love of the subtleties of light and terrain of Italy in general and Sicily in particular, resulting in wonderful landscapes in watercolour, pastel and oil, while friendship with the Glasgow architect Jack Notman led to a succession of commissions to paint murals and trompe l’oeil panels for public buildings and some of the great houses of Scotland.

In the 1980s, Halliday began to concentrate more on easel painting, often depicting Galloway, Ayrshire and the Borders.

But Halliday goes far beyond landscape. His locations frequently become the setting for intriguing and sometimes poignant gatherings of figures as in Miners’ Gala or single, lonely figures as in The Lone Waltzer, which reveal a keen eye for human joy and sadness. In later paintings, they become complex, sometimes disturbing, surreal mindscapes a long way from the tranquillity of autumn on the river Dee.

Halliday’s 80th birthday exhibition at The Harbour Cottage Gallery, Kirkcudbright, from September 23 to October 19, reveals how he has brought to everything he has done a consummate skill and devotion to his art that will endure long after the work of many currently more fashionable painters has slipped into obscurity.