Mr. Pittendrigh Macgillivray. . . is without doubt destined to take a high place among those practising the sculptor's art in this country. One of the younger Associates of the Royal Scottish Academy, his work for a few years past has arrested attention on account of its artistic and evident improving quality. Mr. Macgillivray may be said to represent in sculpture the principles which are associated with the names of the leading Glasgow painters who have been already cited, and with whom at the outset of his career he was in close association, studying and formulating new ideals in art, experimenting with technical methods which should be powerful and expressive rather than neat and finished in appearance, working for tonal effects and striving how to give his art a personal and individual quality. To have been one of that small circle of earnest and enthusiastic artists who originally formed the now notable Glasgow school, with their direct look at Nature and freedom from overmastering tradition, must be regarded as having been a great privilege by those who had the good fortune to be of the number. Devoted and courageous himself, Mr. Macgillivray was doubtless a factor in the forward movement, and readily assimilated the ideas evolved in the atmosphere of the circle.
Born in Aberdeenshire, Mr. Macgillivray, who is the son of a sculptor, was brought up in Edinburgh, He attended the School of Design and went through the usual curriculum, but emerged from it unmedalled. That was some twenty years ago in the prime of the now archaic stippled drawing, when the prize-taking student with painful laboriousness put in a couple of sessions on one study from the antique. Under better guidance the efforts of the student in this case were directed to outline work, which brought no prizes but cultivated a strong sense of form and line. For six years Mr. Macgillivray was an assistant in the studio of the Mr. William Brodie, R.S.A., Edinburgh, two years in the studio of Mr. John Mossman, H.R.S.A., Glasgow. He has recently returned to reside in Edinburgh where his ideal work and portrait busts, by their unconventionality of treatment and their admirable combination of power and style, at once began to attract notice, and election to the Associateship of the Scottish Academy speedily followed.
Although a frequent visitor to Brussels and Paris, Mr. Macgillivray has never worked in any atelier abroad; but it is evident by his technique that he is conversant with the methods of the French and Belgian artists, and in sympathy with the sentiment and style of latter-day school of sculpture. The efforts such men as Rodin Meunier, Dillens and Vanderstappen, claim his attention on account of their picturesque emotional nature, against the more technical excellence of the French classics, although in style his work gives evidence of an effort to blend Academic grace of form as based on the best Greek art with modern thought and personal feeling.
Portrait [Hannah Findlay] by J. P. Macgillivray. [Click on thumbnail for larger image.]
Mr. Macgillivray, too, is an artist equally at home with portraits of men and women. In his male portraits we find strength and virility; while he endows his busts of women with that inexpressible style, the bloom on the flower or the fur on the peach, which gives to the feminine traits of Gainsborough and Romney, for example, their delightful charm. In this respect has touched a high level of excellence in the panel portrait in relief of one of the daughters the late Mr. J. R. Findlay of The Scotsman, gentleman who, by his munificent gift to Scot,nd of the National Portrait Gallery, the Venetian façade of which is being adorned with the figures of eminent Scotchmen, has done something to revive the sculptor's art in Edinburgh.
Rythm by J. P. Macgillivray. [Click on thumbnail for larger image.]
Mr. Macgillivray's talents have a wide range. He is the author of one of the best Burns statues in the country — that recently erected at Irvine. An admirable piece of design is his monument to Dr. Peter Low in Glasgow Cathedral, which takes the form of an apotheosis of the beneficent aspect of medical science; at the present time he is engaged on the execution of a colossal memorial of impressive design, which is being reared in the necropolis of Glasgow by the Allan family, of Allan American Liner fame; a dainty piece of decoration in relief is his Rythm which appropriately forms part of the decoration of an organ, and he has sent out some beautiful memorial tablets in coloured enamels. To the statement made on the opening of these notes that the Scottish public do not appreciate sculpture, an exception has to be made in the case of Mr. Macgillivray. His excellent work has secured many admirers, and of commissions of all kinds he has no lack. Gifted with imagination and artistic sensibility, with a facile and skilful hand, the work he has already done is the best guarantee that can be advanced for his future success. His career will undoubtedly be watched with keen interest by all lovers of art.
W. M. G. "Studio-Talk." The Studio. 16 (1899): 202-05.
Last modified 20 April 2007