The paintings of Aonghas Mhic Alasdair (Angus Morrison) of Ness are on display in the foyer and can be seen until July the 3rd. This is the first time that these paintings have been brought together and is a unique opportunity to see some of the fine woks of this self-taught artist from the Isle of Lewis.
AONGHAS MHIC ALASDAIR
THE PAINTINGS OF ANGUS MORRISON (1872 – 1942)
LIONEL, ISLE OF LEWIS.
Angus Morrison was a seaman and crofter from Ness. Like many of his generation he spent early years at sea and later lived as a working crofter in his native Ness. His home was at Cnoc nan Geàrrloch in Lionel, set among the rolling croftlands of the area and in a typical Lewis township and within sight of the eastern cliffs of Ness and the northern Minch.
What sets Angus Morrison apart is that he was an artist – a self-taught artist, and probably the first in rural Lewis to try his hand at this, and without any formal training. This would not have seemed peculiar in his day for there were craftsmen and bards in each and every village who turned their mind and hand to the making of carts or boats or songs. But none before Angus had got hold of tubes of oil paints and boards and tried to represent his surroundings in paintings.
Almost certainly, he began to do this while he was still at sea for his main preoccupation as an artist was with the ships and yachts he knew so well. In some cases he made more than one painting of the same ship, probably responding to requests from friends who commissioned him to make a painting for them.
A second and strong interest was with his native Ness and especially with the coastal waters and the harbour at Port of Ness and the surprising number of fishing boats working out from land. With their finely sculpted forms and rich russet sails they must have been a joy for him. Not surprisingly, he returned time and time again to the harbour at Port with Tràigh Chealagbhal in the foreground and the fine lines of the quay and the slip/breakwater overlooked by the crofting homes.
It seems that further commissions took him to other parts of the district. He painted both Edgemoor Hall and the church on the clifftop at Filiscleiteir, both linked with John Nicolson, ’An Fiosaich. He did a watercolour of Dùn Eòrodail/Muile Hàis and, more surprisingly, of Urquhart Castle. He also did a painting of Stornoway Harbour based on the William Daniell print of 1819. Another non-Ness picture is the fine painting of the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand.
This is the first time that these paintings have been brought together or exhibited in public. For many years they have all been cared for privately: most have remained in Lewis while others have come from Glasgow, Inverness and Liverpool, and two prints have come from New Zealand.
The hope is that as a consequence of this exhibition more of Angus’ paintings may come to light. His work has been scattered far and wide and it gives cause for celebration that it has now been gathered together in this way and those who own the paintings are to be thanked for making this possible.
It is with pride and a sense of gratitude to this remarkable man and fine artist that we celebrate this gleaning of the work of Aonghas Mhic Alasdair. Would that he were here to enjoy this fine display of his work.