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Discover the ‘Missing’ Scottish Colourist in new Dundee Exhibition

By Maurice Millar, 06.07.2022
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John Maclauchlan Milne, Tending the Nets, c. 1912. © Estate of John Maclauchlan Milne.

John Maclauchlan Milne (1885 – 1957) (JMM) painted in the same places, at the same times, as those who would later be recognised as ‘The Scottish Colourists’. But other than his extensive legacy of paintings, the artist has left a light footprint on history. Dundee claims him as ‘The Dundee Colourist’, others as ‘The Fifth Scottish Colourist’. A major exhibition dedicated to the artist has opened at Roseangle Gallery in Dundee, comprising rarely seen pictures from private collections. JMM's biographer Maurice Millar selects some highlights from the show…

Tending the Nets, c.1912

After emigrating alone to Canada in 1903 at the age of 17, JMM returned to the UK in 1907 and joined his family in London. His father, the landscape artist Joe Milne, decided to return to Scotland and JMM, with his parents and family, left London in 1908/09. They settled in Dundee. JMM was painting in a similar style to his father and his uncle, William Watt Milne. Tending the Nets is an early work, indicated by his signature, which includes his first initial ‘J’. The view is thought to be along the Fife coast looking towards Pittenweem.

JMM and Joe Milne painted together in Perthshire and Fife in 1909 and held a joint sale in November 1909 in Dundee. Joe died in January 1911 and JMM continued painting landscape scenes from the Angus and Fife coasts from Ferryden, by Montrose to Cellardyke in the East Neuk.

Rooftops, Lavardin, c.1921

From 1917 to 1919, JMM served with the Royal Flying Corps in northern France and Belgium. He returned to France, to Paris, soon after the war. His dated paintings from 1920 and 1921 are of Paris; Jardin du Luxembourg and The Public Garden, and from Lavardin in the Loire Valley, as seen in Rooftops, Lavardin. JMM was painting in Scotland in 1922-23, but then returned to France in 1924 and this was the beginning of a richly creative period visiting Provence.

St Tropez Harbour, late 1920s / early 1930s

Some of JMM’s most accomplished work was painted along the Côte d’Azur in the 1920s. Cassis and St Tropez were favourite locations for JMM. His paintings from the Côte d’Azur range from L’Estaque, west of Marseilles, to St Paul de Vence, near Nice including St Tropez Harbour.

Red Flowers, c. 1930s

The Wall Street Crash of October 1929 changed the art market and the demand for JMM’s paintings. He had previously enjoyed support from collectors in Dundee. His continental painting trips would soon end. Instead, like others, he turned to painting still life pictures. Red Flowers along with Still Life with Black Bottle and Sunflowers, are some of the best examples in the show.

Cathedral Rock, Iona, late 1930s

In the 1930s JMM returned to painting in Scotland, taking trips to Perthshire and the North-west Highlands. An exception was his holiday on the east coast at Gourdon, Aberdeenshire in 1935. At Roseangle Gallery visitors can view both a watercolour and an oil-on-canvas of the same scene at Gourdon Harbour.

The Island of Iona has attracted artists for over 250 years. Scottish Colourists Francis Cadell and Samuel Peploe made repeated visits. JMM followed them in 1937 and visited three times between 1937-39. The exhibition has several of JMM’s Iona paintings. Cathedral Rock is a painting from the north end of Iona, looking towards Ulva and Gometra, off the north-west coast of Mull.

Cir Mhòr and the Sannox Hills, Arran, 1940s

The summer of 1940 marked the end of JMM’s time in Dundee and a move to Arran. He had visited Arran in earlier years and started exhibiting paintings of the island in 1939. His final studio exhibition in Dundee was in April 1940. Once established on Arran, he lived at High Corrie on the east coast of the island, north of Brodick. He painted all around the local area. His favourite views featured in many of his Arran paintings, several of which are included in the show.

JMM worked from an outbuilding which he called his ‘atelier’. His work from Arran includes many pictures of white cottages in the local neighbourhood. Sannox Bay was another coastal favourite. Aspects of his Cir Mhòr and the Sannox Hills, Arran are reminiscent of his paintings from Provence 25 years previously.

After a lifetime in art, John Maclauchlan Milne, RSA died in Greenock in October 1957 at the home of his wife’s family.

Maurice Millar is the author of the ‘The Missing Colourist’, an illustrated biography of John Maclauchlan Milne’s life and work. Copies are available from by John Maclauchlan Milne are exhibited at the Roseangle Gallery in Dundee until Saturday 23rd July