The Edinburgh Reporter
Engraved in memory
New plaque commemorating ‘Murrayfield’s Artist’ Charles H Mackie
A NEW PLAQUE has been unveiled in Roseburn Park commemorating the artist, Charles H Mackie, RSA, RSW, who died in Murrayfield in 1920. Mackie, the only Scottish artist of that period who actually met French artist, Gauguin and who was taken round his studio was called “Murrayfield’s artist” by John Yellowlees, Chair of Murrayfield Community Council at a short ceremony in the park.
Inspired by the recent exhibition at the City Art Centre, the community council provided the plaque which is now sited on the northern side of the shared path. Mackie rented a studio on Murrayfield Road from 1896 on the bottom floor of the old Roseburn Primary School. The building was demolished by the council in the 1960s and replaced by a modern office building and the plaque is on the opposite bank of the Water of Leith directly opposite.
Dr Helen Scott, Curator at the City Art Centre, and Pat Clark, author of the Mackie biography unveiled the plaque, and are pictured above with community councillors and a photo of Mackie’s work, ‘There were Three Maidens pu’d a Flower (By the Bonnie Banks o’ Fordie)’ c.1897, part of the City Art Centre collection.
Pat Clark, the self-declared “world authority” on the artist, told The Edinburgh Reporter that Mackie used to watch polo matches on the pitches which now lie between the Water of Leith and BT Murrayfield, and that he painted the Pentlands from his deathbed in the house/ studio on the bank of the Water of Leith. Ms Clark’s book about Mackie (‘People, Places and Piazzas. The Life and Art of Charles H. Mackie’) was a work which she explained was “many years in the making”.
Pat said: “I went to Australia, I went to France and I tried to follow in Charles Mackie’s footsteps. I encountered his last living relatives who live out in Melbourne, Australia, and I tracked down many of his paintings although I have to admit that some are lost to posterity.
“But many of the best paintings he ever created were actually executed here in Murrayfield. He was born in Aldershot where his father was a serving soldier, and then attended George Watson’s College in Edinburgh. He made his home and studio here.
“He was a unique artist influenced by a group of artists in France called Les Symbolistes. He met Vuillard and brought the first Vuillard work back to Scotland. His art grew out of his Scottish roots, but it also reacted to the influences of the Nabis in Paris. They in turn had been influenced by Gauguin. Charles Mackie is the only Scottish artist of that period who actually met Gauguin and who was taken round his studio.”
Mackie is buried in Warriston Cemetery. In the 1890s he was commissioned by Patrick Geddes to produce murals for Ramsay Garden in Edinburgh’s Old Town, as well as illustrations for the pioneering journal The Evergreen.
Despite his many achievements, he has always been treated as a peripheral figure in the story of Scottish art. As a mature artist, Mackie worked with an impressive range of media, not only producing oil paintings and watercolours, but also murals, woodblock prints, book illustrations and sculpture. His influences were quite diverse, drawing inspiration from French Symbolism, the Celtic Revival movement and the landscapes of his European travels.