Fleming, Ian

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Fleming, Ian

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1906-1994

History

Ian Fleming, artist and teacher: born Glasgow 19 November 1906; Lecturer, Glasgow School of Art 1931-48; ARSA 1947, RSA 1956; RSW 1947; Warden, Patrick Allen-Fraser Art College, Hospitalfield, Arbroath 1948-54; Principal, Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen 1954-71; Chairman, Peacock Printmakers Workshop, Aberdeen 1973-86; married 1943 Catherine Weetch (one son, two daughters); died Aberdeen 24 July 1994. Born the younger son of John Fleming (d. 1939) a painter and decorator and his wife Catherine nee McLean (d. 1970) a Gaelic speaker from Tiree. Although at birth he was given the name John he was always known as Ian. He was educated in Glasgow at Church Street primary school, where he first discovered he had a talent for drawing, and at Hyndland secondary school. From 1924 to 1929 he studied drawing and painting at Glasgow School of Art, where he also began printmaking. There he was taught lithography and colour woodcut by Chika McNab and Josephine Haswell Miller. He first exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in 1927 and at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1930. Fleming spent the year 1930–31 at Jordanhill Teacher Training College, Glasgow. In 1931 he was appointed assistant lecturer at Glasgow School of Art, where he taught life drawing, painting, and art history. Through Adam Bruce Thomson he met the Edinburgh printmaker and stained-glass artist William Wilson. The two became firm friends and shared ideas on printmaking, each influencing the other. Nominated in 1933 by Wilson, Fleming became an active member of the Society of Artist Printmakers. At Glasgow School of Art he taught Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, and his large oil portrait of these two young artists won the 1938 Guthrie award. His 1940 painting Art Students Preparing a Still Life was one of only a few works to survive a fire in his studio in 1942. Fleming rejoined Glasgow School of Art in 1946 as a senior lecturer, and in 1948 he was appointed warden at the Patrick Allan-Fraser Art College, Hospitalfield, Arbroath. While there he moved away from printmaking towards painting (in watercolours and oils) pastoral landscapes and fishing harbours; he also continued to paint very strong portraits. His skills as an administrator and teacher were used to the full during his term as principal from 1954 to 1971 of Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen. At the time of his appointment the school's premises were attached to Aberdeen Art Gallery and very limited. Fleming revived the department of printmaking, expanded the entire curriculum, and created a library. But his major achievement was the removal of Gray's to Garthdee and a purpose-built college that put Aberdeen on the map of national art education. He wanted to promote at Gray's the basic excellence of drawing, combined with emotional feeling. Colleagues recalled him as unpretentious, modest, enthusiastic, and full of energy. He visited every school in the Aberdeen area and gave talks about the opportunities at Gray's. From 1956 onwards he visited Shetland to teach in the summer schools at Jarlshof. Fleming died of kidney failure in Aberdeen on 24 July 1994 and was cremated on 28 July at Aberdeen crematorium. He was survived by his wife and three children. A commemorative plaque was placed on his house at 15 Fonthill Road, Aberdeen. In 1996 Aberdeen Art Gallery mounted a memorial exhibition. A posthumous bust by Gilbert Watt is in Aberdeen Art Gallery, which also holds the major collection of paintings and prints from his estate. Other collections holding works by Fleming include the Glasgow School of Art; the Glasgow Art Gallery; the Hunterian Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow; the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh; the Royal West of England Academy; the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle; the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; and the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

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Sources

Fiona Pearson, ‘Fleming, Ian (1906–1994)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008 (http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/54960, accessed 12 Aug 2014)

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