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Wraps set to come off first ever display of World War 1 frontline watercolours from 'The Poolewe Artist' Finlay Mackinnon at Gairloch Museum

By Hector MacKenzie

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4th Seaforths Marching through Neuve Chapelle into Trenches by Finlay Mackinnon.
4th Seaforths Marching through Neuve Chapelle into Trenches by Finlay Mackinnon.

WATERCOLOURS and sketches created under treacherous World War 1 conditions by a Wester Ross artist who served with the 4th Seaforth Highlanders are set to be exhibited for the first time ever.

Gairloch Museum is gearing up for another season, celebrating and sharing both the history of the local area and contemporary art.

During March and April, the museum’s lower gallery will be featuring an exhibition on The Poolewe Artist, Finlay Mackinnon.

This exhibition will display a collection of watercolours and sketches by Mackinnon for the first time. It has been made possible thanks to the generous donation of an album of his work, given to Gairloch Museum in 2021.

Born in 1863 in Poolewe, Mackinnon fulfilled his early promise and achieved notable success during his lifetime. So much so that he became known as ‘The Poolewe Artist’. Working in pencil and watercolour, the album showcases two of the artist’s most well-known subjects – the landscapes of his beloved Highlands and his experiences at the Western Front during the First World War.

Created under treacherous conditions while serving with the 4th Seaforth Highlanders, these remarkable works are unique representations of the devastation to the French landscape.

The exhibition has been made possible thanks to the generous donation of an album of Finlay’s sketches and watercolours to Gairloch Museum in 2021. A grant from the Association for Independent Museums allowed Gairloch Museum to fund the conservation of the album. In the conservator’s studio at the Highland Archive Centre, the album was rebound, cleaned and the artworks secured.

As well as the album being on display, the artworks inside have been digitised and will be projected in the exhibition, giving a much fuller appreciation of his stunning work.

Research for the exhibition has brought a wealth of new knowledge about the artist to add to the Museum archives, and the donors are delighted that these paintings have 'come home', the Museum being less than a mile from where Finlay Mackinnon is buried in Gairloch's new cemetery.

Pauline Butler who has researched and helped coordinate the exhibition will also be giving a talk on the life and work of Finlay Mackinnon on Thursday, March 9, the anniversary of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.

In the museum’s upper gallery, contemporary artwork by Katherine Sutherland will be on show. Titled “Colours of Scotland” Katherine Sutherland’s striking paintings are an emotional response to the landscape – a poetic expression, rather than a photographic representation of nature.

Living and working in the Highlands, Kathy trained as a nurse before becoming a full-time artist in 2014. Organisers say they are delighted to present her first exhibition at Gairloch Museum.

Russell Burn, Kishorn by Katherine Sutherland.
Russell Burn, Kishorn by Katherine Sutherland.

Kathy’s work brims with exciting brushstrokes, bold compositions and rich colours. As well as the landscape itself, she draws inspiration from a wide range of artists, most notably the Scottish Colourists and the Impressionists, as well as Joan Eardley, Peter Prendergast and Duncan Shanks.

She said: “My ‘Colours of Scotland’ Exhibition at Gairloch Museum invites visitors to look at the colours of the landscape around us through my eyes. Framed by mountains and lochs, the Highlands of Scotland are a spectacular landscape to paint. The light and colours are forever changing and capturing this in my paintings is everything. Its elusive quality transforms the landscape in a matter of seconds. I strive as an artist to convey a sense of place by capturing this fleeting magic. Light is in a constant dance with the world around us.”

Members of the public are invited to an early preview of both these exhibitions on Friday, March 3 from 7pm to 8pm. The museum re-opens the following week from Thursday, March 9, 11am – 4pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The opening hours change from Monday, April 3 when the museum will be open 10am – 5pm Mondays-Saturdays.

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