Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Artists of St Andrews

Set within one of the most picturesque landscapes of Scotland lies the Town of St Andrews. From its breath-taking scenery to its vast and outstanding history, St Andrews has always been able to inspire those around her. Artists in particular have found the town to be an incredible source of interest, most notably in the 20th century when some of St Andrews most famous artists including Annabel Kidston, Ada Hill Walker, Jozef Sekalski and the McKenzie Sisters, found a name for themselves.

While the Museum is probably most well-known for its chemist, grocer’s shop and dentistry items, there are a variety of materials contained within the collection that relate to the social history of St Andrews. This includes a number of artworks which, due to the small nature of the Museum,  is rarely on display. Some of the images on display relate to the artist and model makers listed below

Jack Inglis

Jack was born in St Andrews in 1933 and was a pupil at Madras College. He joined the Byre Theatre Company when he was 10. He dedicated his life to Theatre and Arts and excelled in stage designing and model making. He worked for many important theatres in London as a Production Assistant or a Stage Designer. His talent caught the eyes of many and he collaborated with famous names of the theatre and cinema industry.

In 1960, he formed Toltec Studios with two companions in South London. The company supplied plans, drawings and scale models to prestigious institutions such as the Royal Opera House. From 1965, he produced scale models of famous buildings for the British Tourist Authority. They used them to represent Great Britain at World Fairs. In 1967, he produced Visurama, a son et lumière show depicting the history of St Andrews. His models appeared in several movies and he even got a commission for a scale replica of the Windsor Royal Lodge's ‘Octagon Room’ from the Queen Mother.

In 1987, Jack moved to Bournemouth. He lectured in Stage Technique and Music Appreciation. He continued designing sets and advised Amateur drama clubs on local productions.


Toltec Studios produced Visurama in 1969 and 1970. It was an innovative way to use models in an animated show. The shows were a combination of scale models and slides projections. Recorded sounds, dialogues and music evoked scene after scene stories and characters from St Andrews.

Bill Maguire, theatre technician and lighting expert, elaborated the storyline. He used the writings of Hay Flemings, a famous St Andrean historian to recreate the protagonists' dialogues. Ken Inglis prepared the slides illustrating the story. A.B. Paterson, creator of the Byre Theatre, together with other locals, provided the voices of the soundtrack. Their distinctive pronunciation of English transmitted a truly St Andrean atmosphere. Famous actors such as Pamela Binns and Andrew Faulds also lent their voices for the occasion. Robin Don, from Newport, created a special stage for the models. A keyboard allowed the show master to move the models from a distance. Images seemed to appear and vanish in clouds thanks to a slide projector and a cloud effects projector. Water, snow and fire effects added a realistic touch to the show.

The show lasted 90 minutes and was on each year for a six-week season. They first performed it in the Preservation Trust Museum at 12 North Street in 1969. Every day, children aged 6 and over discovered the history of St Andrews as Jack and his colleagues performed the show in local schools. The Torch Club in South Street also welcomed them daily.

Making the models

Jack Inglis designed his models with a high level of precision. His unique tools were a knife blade and his fingernails, which he manicured to a point. Building such models required hours of observation but also a lot of patience. It was sometimes difficult to obtain detailed plans of famous buildings such as Big Ben. Ken Inglis, Jack’s brother and a photographer for the BBC, contributed by taking pictures and enlarging them to the scale Jack wanted to work at.

Jack used all sorts of materials to build his models. These were balsa wood, card, plaster, dental wax, paint, or anything suitable to achieve a realistic impression. The similarity of colours between the monuments and their models is striking. Jack donated the Visurama models to the Preservation Trust in 2008, and they are on display in the Museum for all to admire.

Annabel Kidston

Agnes Annabel Kidston was born in 1896 in Glasgow where she grew up. Her first encounters with art were through her art teachers Agnes Raeburn and Bessie Young. She attended the Glasgow School of Art from 1918 to 1921 and then studied in Paris and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. There, she studied painting and more importantly wood engraving under Thomas Smith until 1926. She became a part-time teacher as Head of the Art Department of Laurel Bank School.

She moved to St Andrews in 1936 to join her sister Margaret. Soon after her arrival, in 1937, she co-founded and became the president of the St Andrews Preservation Trust. She and other famous St Andreans (Ronald Cant, A.B. Paterson etc.) appreciated the unique architectural and historical character of the town and understood that the town expansion could threaten it.

Between 1941 and 1946, together with her friends and fellow artists Alison and Winifred McKenzie, she became instructor in drawing and engraving for the Committee for Education for the Forces. They held classes three evenings a week and were notable for the work done with the Polish soldiers during their station in St Andrews. Under their teaching, many of the soldiers revealed to be extremely talented and displayed their artworks in prestigious galleries in both St Andrews and Edinburgh. 

After the war, she became a part-time instructor of drawing and painting at Duncan of Jordanstone, College of Art and Design in Dundee. Simultaneously, she involved herself with the St Andrews Art Committee of which she became the first Chairman and later the President in 1972. She also became one the first members of the St Andrews Art Club. In 1965, Annabel bought, restored and lived in 21-23 Market Street, situated in one of the oldest parts of the town.

She exhibited her artworks at many occasions at the Royal Society of Arts and at the Royal Society of Watercolours. She also had exhibitions on her own in Edinburgh, Helensburgh and St Andrews. A member of the Society of Print Makers, she produced illustrations for Jonathan Cape, the Glasgow Bulletin Saltire Society, and Chambers Encyclopaedia. Glasgow and Manchester galleries as well as the Ashmolean in Oxford acquired some of her prints.

Annabel Kidston died in 1981 in Berwickshire but a court bearing her name in Market Street, next to her home, still commemorates her in town.

The McKenzie Sisters: Winifred 1905-2001 and Alison 1907-1982

Winifred and Alison McKenzie were born in Bombay. Their father, George McKenzie, trained as an architect with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and planned to set up a partnership with him. However, he went instead to India to join the family sawmill business.

In 1923 Winifred enrolled in drawing and painting classes at Glasgow School of Art, where a lecturer Chica McNab, introduced her to colour woodcuts. Alison followed Winifred to Glasgow School of Art and became one of the leading students in Design and Textiles. They completed their art training at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London.

The sisters moved to St Andrews in 1940 with their mother and set up home at 3 Playfair Terrace. For the next four years, the sisters and their friend, Annabel Kidston, taught drawing and wood engraving to the allied forces stationed in St Andrews during the war.

In 1944 Winifred taught at Dundee College of Art where she as the first art tutor to introduce a wood engraving class for Diploma students. Alison joined her in the department two years later. When their mother became ill, the two sisters job-shared in order to care for her.

The McKenzie sisters were part of what became known as the ‘St Andrews Group’; a close-knit artists’ community, which included Annabel Kidston and Roberta and Josef Sekalski of Bell Rock House. Both Winifred and Alison had their work accepted every year by the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. Winifred’s Blue Table was purchased by the Duke of Edinburgh, after being exhibited at the summer exhibition of 1963. The St Andrews Preservation Trust holds a number of works by Winifred and Alison McKenzie.