‘Remarkable’ collection goes on show

Art lover and collector Dorothie Hewlett (known as Dickie) died in October 2011 and it was her wish that her remarkable art collection return to her Scottish childhood home.

So now a new exhibition – An Eclectic Eye: The Dorothie Hewlett Collection – is opening at Gracefield Gallery 1 in Dumfries.

It will show the complete bequest to Gracefield’s Permanent Art Collection for the first time and features more than 50 fascinating drawings, paintings and original prints and two small sculptures.

Born in South Africa, Dorothie was raised at Kelton House on the banks of the River Nith near Dumfries. After studying at the Edinburgh College of Art, she worked during the Second World War for Rolls-Royce Aero Engines in Glasgow, making drawings for the Merlin engine which was to power the Spitfire. There she met her future husband, Roy, then serving as navigating officer on HMS Clarkia, a corvette based on the Clyde, from where he would set sail to escort the Atlantic convoys. They married in 1947 and moved to Birmingham and, while Roy pursued his business career, Dorothie taught art to disadvantaged children.

Dickie’s practice and appreciation of art continued throughout her life and was always a source of great pleasure to her. She and Roy began to assemble this collection of lithographs, oils, etchings and watercolours in the 1960s. Many of the works are by leading Scottish artists such as Sir William Gillies, William Gear, Elizabeth Blackadder, Sir Robin Philipson, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and Joan Eardley, with the rest of the collection a reflection of the collectors’ taste featuring fascinating prints by Picasso, Matisse, Braques and Miro.

In these times of shrinking budgets, local art collections like Gracefield are becoming more dependent on the generosity of collectors to keep their art collections fresh and relevant. This important collection of work offers the chance to see in public, artworks which would not otherwise be affordable or accessible. It is a credit to Mrs Hewlett and her family that she chose a Scottish home for the works when they could easily have graced a collection such as that of the Tate or the National Galleries.

An exhibition opening celebration will be held on Friday, March 1, from 7-9pm. Join Arts Officer, Dawn Henderby and Amanda Herries of the Public Catalogue Foundation for a guided talk around the exhibition and a discussion of the importance of philanthropy for public collections.

The exhibition runs from March 2 until May 18, at Gracefield Arts Centre, 28 Edinburgh Road, Dumfries, from Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm and admission is free.