West Coast Passion: The Studios of Cunningham & Wyllie
In August 2013 we were pleased to present for sale the studio contents of two of Glasgow’s most pre-eminent and best-loved artists, George Wyllie and John Cunningham. The work of both artists made a true impact on the 20th century Scottish art scene and, though very different in manner and style, their work reflected a common theme - a legacy and love for Glasgow and the west coast beyond.
John Cunningham attended the Glasgow School of Art and subsequently held various teaching posts. He was appointed to the Glasgow School of Art in 1967 and became a Senior Lecturer before his retirement in 1985, when he made the decision to devote himself to painting full time. Professor Alan Riach said of his uncle "John was a great, generous presence in Glasgow and the west of Scotland, a man of abundant generosity and appetite for life he took and gave great pleasure in all things around him, and this is abundantly evident in the paintings and objects collected in this studio.
George Wyllie took his inspiration down a very different path from Cunningham, creating major pieces of public art that the public can’t avoid across the city that raised socio-political questions in the minds of the people of Glasgow. George, a retired Customs and Excise officer turned full time artist, had a knack for masterminding big events. He was articulate and he was a showman and felt that art should be taken out of art galleries and into the wider public realm.
The works included a second version of the famous Straw Locomotive, George Wyllie’s powerful full scale rendition of a classic steam train which hung from Glasgow’s Stobcross crane during The Glasgow Garden Festival in the summer of 1987. This work is widely credited as one of the defining moments in Scottish art in the 20th Century. It secured Wyllie’s reputation as an artist of international standing. The seeming insubstantiality of the piece was widely understood and appreciated as a commentary on the loss ofthe West of Scotland’s traditional heavy industries. Wyllie’s subsequent Viking funeral forthe piece was typical of his bravura theatricality but did nothing to diminish the standing of a work whose public impact has never since been equalled.
The sale took place on Tuesday 27th August and was held at arts venue The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, in their home city of Glasgow.