Portrait of an Exceptional Woman

Photogravure portrait of Frau Muthesius by James Craig Annan, acquired by the Hunterian in 2019 with an NFA grant of £225.

Singer, author, champion of artistic dress – Anna Muthesius (1870–1961) was a multi-talented modern woman. Her beauty and elegance are brilliantly captured in this photogravure portrait.

Photogravure portrait of Frau Muthesius by James Craig Annan

Photogravure portrait of Frau Muthesius by James Craig Annan

Born Anna Trippenbach in what is now Saxony-Anhalt, she married the German architect Hermann Muthesius (1861-1927), who became cultural attaché at the German embassy in London. Anna was an important artistic figure in her own right. Through Hermann’s research into modern British architecture, the couple became good friends of the Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and his artist wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933). Mackintosh was godfather to their son, Friedrich Eckart, and the two couples corresponded and stayed as guests at each other’s houses. On one visit, Mackintosh left behind a pair of socks – Anna Muthesius said she knew they must be his because ‘they could only belong to some beautiful Scottish legs’!

Surviving letters show that Anna and Hermann planned to stay with the Mackintoshes in Glasgow in June 1903, and it may have been on this occasion that Frau Muthesius visited the Sauchiehall Street studio of portrait photographer James Craig Annan (1864–1946). In the same year, she published a book, Das Eigenkleid der Frau (Woman’s Own Dress), where she argued that clothing should be adapted to the individual wearer and that women should design their own clothes and not be dictated to by Paris fashions. It seems likely, therefore, that the feathered hat and high-collared cape in Annan’s portrait were designed – and perhaps even made – by Frau Muthesius herself.

Annan had an international reputation as a photographer. His work was exhibited in Europe and America, and a number of his images – including this one – were published in the important photographic journal Camera Work. Photogravure is a printing process that involves etching a photographic image onto metal and then taking an impression from the inked plate. The result has a soft, rich, velvety quality, rather like a charcoal drawing. Annan learned the process from Karel Klic (1841-1926), in Vienna in 1883, and became one of its leading exponents.


Design for a silver fork and spoon by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Annan’s portrait of Frau Muthesius joins a small group of related items in the Hunterian’s collection. Among these is Mackintosh’s design for a silver fork and spoon, made as a gift for his godson Friedrich Eckart Muthesius in 1904.


Photograph of a lost painting of Anna Muthesius by Francis Newbery

Also in the collection is a monochrome photograph of a lost painting of Frau Muthesius by Francis Newbery (1855-1946). More informal than Annan’s studio-based portrait, it shows her bending over her sewing. Recalling this painting in 1962, Newbery’s daughter described the sitter as ‘exotically beautiful’ and remembered that she was wearing a ‘green and blue Javanese wax print – a real innovation’. The Annan portrait is an equally memorable image of this exceptional woman, who expressed her personality through her remarkable clothes.

Joseph Sharples,
Curator of Mackintosh Collections
The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

Willie Rodger Fan Club

60 linocut prints by Willie Rodger RSA RGI (b1930), acquired in 2017 by Lillie Art Gallery with an NFA grant of £2,000.

Pick up Fugitive Colours, the latest collection by Liz Lochhead, and you will find Willie Rodger celebrated in two of her poems.  And why not?  Willie Rodger is an artist who should be celebrated in poetry for his Zen-like scrutiny of his fellow human beings: humorous, delightful, insightful; he observes, never judges.

Man nearly falling in love

Man Nearly Falling in Love by Willie Rodger (all images reproduced by kind permission of the artist)

Wee Bite

Wee Bite by Willie Rodger

In 2005 the Auld Kirk Museum, in his home town of Kirkintilloch, had the privilege of mounting a retrospective exhibition to mark his 75th year.

A dozen years on, we were horrified when it dawned on us that we didn’t actually have a representative collection of his trademark linocut prints in the Lillie Art Gallery’s permanent collection – his local gallery!

Thanks to a grant from the National Fund for Acquisitions this shocking oversight has been remedied and we have an assemblage of 60 prints chosen for the collection by the artist himself.


Autumn by Willie Rodger

Once in a Blue Moon

Once in a Blue Moon by Willie Rodger

And then there are Willie Rodger’s wonderful paintings, described by Liz Lochhead as, ‘deep saturations of pure colour’, but they’re for another day, another NFA application …

Peter McCormack
Museums Development Officer
East Dunbartonshire Leisure & Culture Trust


By the Light of the Moon

Oil on canvas, Moon, 2014, by Alison Watt, acquired by the City Art Centre (City of Edinburgh Museums & Galleries) in 2017 with an NFA grant of £9,500.

Earlier this year the City Art Centre in Edinburgh acquired a new painting by contemporary artist Alison Watt to add to its Scottish Art collection. Numbering over 4,800 artworks in a variety of media, this collection traces the development of art in Scotland from the 17th century to the present day. The acquisition of contemporary works is a key part of our collecting policy, ensuring that the collection continues to provide a comprehensive overview of Scottish art for future generations.

Alison Watt was born in Greenock in 1965 and studied at Glasgow School of Art during the 1980s. She first came to public attention in 1987 when she won the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious annual Portrait Award. During the early part of her career, Watt concentrated on the human form, painting both portraits and female nudes. However, in the late 1990s she began to produce highly detailed depictions of fabric and drapery which reference the work of 18th and 19th century French artists such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) and Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). Since then Watt’s style has become increasingly abstract, although her paintings remain rooted in the idea of human presence and absence.

Alison Watt - Moon, 2014- installed revised 2016_PRESS

Oil on canvas, Moon, 2014, by Alison Watt

Moon is a striking example of Watt’s mature work, which blends the influence of the Old Masters with the artist’s literary interests. The poetry of Norman MacCaig (1910-1996), with its focus on the small, often overlooked details of nature and their relationship to our wider understanding of the world, is of particular relevance. According to Watt, Moon relates specifically to MacCaig’s 1974 poem Praise of a Thorn Bush, which describes a transformation by moonlight:

at night you trap stars, and the moon
fills you with distances.

Like a piece of poetry, this quietly powerful painting invites a contemplative and intimate response.

Moon is the first artwork by Alison Watt to be acquired by the City Art Centre. It joins a growing collection of work by contemporary Scottish artists which includes important pieces by, among others, Nathan Coley (b1967), Christine Borland (b1965), Charles Avery (b1973) and Graham Fagan (b1966). It also strengthens the representation of female artists in the collection.

Alison Watt Installation Image

Moon on display at the City Art Centre

Moon can currently be seen at the City Art Centre in the new exhibition Edinburgh Alphabet: An A-Z of the City’s Collections. This show brings together over 300 objects drawn from across the City’s fine and applied art, social history, literary, archaeology and childhood collections. Within this diverse, multi-disciplinary display Moon is shown alongside a selection of historic and modern Scottish sculpture, revealing yet another dimension to this richly layered artwork.

Edinburgh Alphabet: An A-Z of the City’s Collections runs until 8 October 2017. For more information see: http://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/Venues/City-Art-Centre/Exhibitions/2017-18/Edinburgh-Alphabet

Dr Helen Scott
Curator (Fine Art)
City Art Centre, Edinburgh