John Lowrie Morrison is one of Scotland’s leading contemporary landscape painters.
Family background contributed to both a deep love of art (his maternal grandfather, Henry Lowrie, was a brilliant water-colourist), and a profound religious faith, though it was not till later in life that the latter became specifically denominational.
Landscape has been a major strand in British painting since the eighteenth century – nowhere more so perhaps than in Scotland. From the classical style of Nasmyth and Moore, through the romantic vision of Knox and McCulloch, Scottish painters were among the first to adopt the plein-air approach of the Impressionists and, later, it was dominant theme of the Colourists, continuing during the years leading up to the Second World War, since when, it is figurative painting that has tended to attract the attention of critics and the media, particularly the work of the New Glasgow Boys and their followers.
Though a prizewinner at Glasgow School of Art for figure – drawing, since establishing himself as full time painter, Morrison has concentrated largely on landscape, using a signature developed during a Latin class at Hyndland Secondary School and prominent on his paintings since 1985.
After a Diploma in Education at Jordanhill College, he began teaching in Argyll in 1973. His enthusiasm and conviction ensured a series of promotions culminating in a post as Art Adviser for Strathclyde, covering Glasgow, Dumbarton and Argyll: an example, perhaps, of one aspect of the “Peter Principle” whereby the best people are promoted or move to posts where their special talents are no longer practised. He now lacked time for the development of his own work, the driving force of any committed artist. In 1997 he severed all formal links with education and determined to earn a living as a full time painter, spending most of the six years painting in Argyll and the Hebrides.
Earlier travels in Europe had introduced him to work of Soutine and Chagall, whose use of colour had profound effect on him as did the work of the German Expressionists but in this case not a tortured, angst-ridden world-view but a different, optimistic expressionism whereby his paintings would exhibit his joy at the landscape viewed as the result of the interaction of God and man. He would paint a landscape not as he saw it but as it affected him often after long period of assimilation and contemplation.
He travels extensively, constantly sketching and photographing anything that catches his eye – a building, a mountain or a beach, a flash of colour on a rock or other object, an effect of light. Each image will be reviewed mentally against his deeply researched knowledge of the area – its geology, geography, history economy, folklore and his own experience of it in various seasons, times of day and weather.
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