Sir Robin Philipson RA PPRSA FRSA RSW RGI LLD D. Litt

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Sir Robin Philipson RA PPRSA FRSA RSW RGI LLD D. Litt (1916 – 1992)

Acclaimed Scottish artist John Bellany CBE RA, in his Foreword for the biography on Philipson by W. Gordon Smith, recalls a discussion he had with Philipson shortly after the latter returned from a summer’s teaching assignment in Boulder, Colorado, USA. Bellany, then a student at the Edinburgh College of Art when Philipson was Head of School, was at the receiving end of a pointed lecture that ended “You must keep your own identity. You must never lose sight of your own vision, however grand or modest it might be”.

There can be little doubt Sir Robin Philipson practiced what he preached. His choice of subject matter, his use of colour and his facility to make it “glow”, his vital and high-energy style of working his oil paintings in particular, all combined to serve his unique “identity” in artistic terms. Of significance, with subjects such as cock -fights, and ladies of the night on the one hand, with Alter pieces and Church rose windows on the other, his paintings brought a unique “expressive” treatment to the fore, and helped mark him out as a highly original and wonderfully talented painter.

For many years I have been fascinated by Philipson’s work – and although I appreciate that in many respects his paintings are an acquired taste – I think it is the combination of unusual subject matter and yet studied composition, coupled with his use of often vibrant and “singing” colour (and impasto working of oils) that speaks to me most; and yet his deft handling of watercolour and extraordinary subtlety of treatment in pastels I find equally enthralling. No matter the medium, the fact is I rate his work so very highly and do wonder why it is that he remains something of an “unsung hero” as an artist. Perhaps it is his academic prowess and legacy that today simply overshadows his due recognition as a once practicing and wonderfully talented painter.

However, I do believe, that, like the Scottish Colourists, his time will come.

Certainly, his contribution to the Scottish art scene was and remains significant, as the words of John Bellany in his Foreword testify to. As do the letters after his name – Sir Robin Philipson RA PPRSA FRSA RSW RGI LLD DLITT – all gained in recognition of his contribution to the world of visual arts as both practicing artist and leader and educator supreme within the Edinburgh College of Art.

With this small exhibition of his work we hope to show his contrasting subjects and his significant skill across the various mediums, and so help our clients to become more familiar with the work of this extraordinary artist.

For collectors this is an opportunity to acquire a Philipson at a price level that, we believe, can only go one way in the future - it only takes a twist of fate or fortune at some future auction, or perhaps a decision by one of the National Galleries to hold a feature exhibition of the artist’s work, to elevate the name Philipson both in profile and in “seriously collectable” terms.

Given the way works by Anne Redpath, Joan Eardley and the fringe colourists such as Maclaughlan Milne, have begun to fetch ever more significant sums at auction, with Philipson’s undeniable pedigree as both educator and creative beacon, it is, surely, only a matter of time before his paintings follow suit.

Roy McGregor