Fyffe Christie 1918-1979

06-07-2019 -

A Graduate of Glasgow School of Art, Christie was born in Hertfordshire and came to Glasgow in 1930 aged 12. On leaving school he became an apprentice lithographic draughtsman, having inherited a gift for drawing from his father, George William Fyffe, creator of the then popular Scottikins character in the Bulletin newspaper. At the outbreak of war he joined the Scottish Rifles 9th Cameronians, serving as a piper in Holland and Germany. Throughout his army service he made many drawings and watercolours, returning in 1946 having decided to become an artist.

He studied murals at GSA under Walter Pritchard, later collaborating with him on a mural in St. Francis in The East Church. Winner of the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished student of the year, his postgraduate travelling scholarship took him to France, Germany and Italy. He completed numerous murals in the Iona Community House, the Glasgow College of Piping, Crossmyloof Ice Rink, Hillhead Primary School and Glasgow University Men’s Union.

Christie taught evening classes at Glasgow School of Art. He married Eleanor Munro and moved to London permanently, where he completed commissions for murals in churches and public buildings around Ilford and Farnborough. Attending life classes he began to concentrate on painting and drawing, producing many fine life studies and portraits of his students.

Christie’s influences were early Italian painting in his drawings, composition and designs. His nude studies, with purity of colour and simple flowing line have echoes of Matisse. The oils have strong gestural and physical character and a different kind of assertive assurance owing much to the influence of Kokoschka. His landscapes are in the Scottish Colourist and younger MacTaggart tradition – vibrantly coloured, animated surfaces. But it is perhaps the drawings that are the outstanding aspect of Christie’s work, for there is no doubt he was a draughtsman of rare ability. The selection we have made we hope will reveal something of his sensitivity, evident rapport with his sitters and easy spontaneity.

Cyril Gerber said of Christie who died in 1979 “Except for his mural work he had scarcely ever exhibited in his lifetime. The experience of looking through his life’s work brings two thoughts to mind. First, that our attention at any one period tends to focus on a quite small number of artists who, by a fortunate combination of ability, chance, historical timing and personality, have come to our notice. We see only what we are allowed to see in art – perhaps only the tip of the iceberg. How many other highly gifted artists may be going un-noticed by the same laws of chance? Second, with such an ability to draw coupled with his obvious joy in handling oil paint or manipulating the flow of watercolour, what kind of impact might he have been making in today’s more appreciative world of contemporary figurative art? We can only speculate on this.”

This exhibition includes oils, watercolours, life studies, portraits, landscapes and early drawings of Venice from his travelling scholarship.