The McKenzie Sisters

Oil painting, ‘Still Life with Red and Blue Poppies’ by Winifred McKenzie (1905-2001), and two gouache panels from the ‘Cries of London’ series by Alison McKenzie (1907-1982), acquired by St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum in 2014 and 2015 with grants of £287 and £437.

When Winifred and Alison McKenzie arrived in St Andrews to escape the London Blitz in 1940 they never anticipated that they would spend the rest of their lives there. They quickly settled into town life, becoming valuable members of the community at a time of great uncertainty. Already established artists, having trained at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and Glasgow School of Art, the sisters had exhibited widely in London and at the Royal Scottish Academy. They put their artistic talents to use in St Andrews by hosting wood engraving classes for the allied forces stationed there. The work produced by the soldiers was exhibited at the National Gallery of Scotland in 1944.

Still Life by Winifred McKenzie

Oil on canvas, ‘Still Life with Red and Blue Poppies’, by Winifred McKenzie

St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum held an exhibition of work by local artists in 2013 where work by the McKenzie sisters, loaned by local people and University of Dundee Museum Service, was displayed alongside the allied soldiers’ work, donated to the museum by Winifred in 1970. Despite holding the sisters’ archive, at that time the museum only held one artwork, a 1954 British Railways poster of St Andrews by Alison. Keen to develop our local art collection and the work of the McKenzie sisters in particular, the museum applied to the National Fund for Acquisitions in July 2014 to assist with the purchase of an oil painting of poppies by Winifred, painted around 1977.

'Buy a Fine Singing Bird' by Alison McKenzie

Gouache on panel, ‘Buy a Fine Singing Bird’, by Alison McKenzie

From this initial purchase, the collection of artwork by the sisters has grown. In early Spring 2015 an oil painting of roses by Winifred was gifted to the museum, and in August 2015 we secured further funding from the NFA to purchase two works by Alison from the ‘Cries of London’ series, commissioned in 1934. This acquisition demonstrates our aspiration to build a collection that shows how the sisters’ work evolved over the course of their lives. It is also extremely satisfying to see their work in St Andrews, the town that offered refuge from the Blitz and which became their permanent home.

'White Onyons' by Alison McKenzie

Gouache on panel, ‘White Onyons’ by Alison McKenzie

The Alison McKenzie panels will be on display in the museum from late August 2015.

Samantha Bannerman
St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum





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