Item NMC/1442 - Mamie Biggar

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Mamie Biggar


  • 1937 (Creation)

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Portrait head of the artist's sister, Mamie.

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Biographical history

Helen Biggar (born 25/5/1909), from Glasgow, was a student at The Glasgow School of Art from 1925-1932. Helen was awarded a diploma in Textile Design in 1929, and was also awarded a Minor Travel Bursary of £10 in 1930. She suffered from polio and was very short in stature. She was politically active during the war and a member of the Kino society and involved in the Glasgow Worker's Theatre Group.

Helen Biggar's wartime Glasgow art circle included refugee artists like Josef Herman and Jankel Adler, and talented locals like Robert Frame and Eli Montlake, some of whom joined her in London when she moved there permanently in 1945. They exhibited as the New Scottish Group at the Edinburgh Festival in 1947; and as the Gorbals Artists when Glasgow Unity brought their famous production of The Gorbals Story (1946) to London in 1948. On 11 October 1948 Helen Biggar married Eli Montlake at Wandsworth register office.

She also worked on several productions with the filmmaker Norman McLaren, who also studied at the School.
Helen died of a brain haemorrhage at St Mary Abbot's Hospital, London, on 28 March 1953. Her cremation at Golders Green was attended by luminaries from the artistic, theatrical, and ballet worlds of London and Glasgow. She was survived by her husband.

Archival history

Exhibited: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh 01 November 2015-26 June 2016 for 'Modern Scottish Women | Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965' exhibition.

Custodial history

Gift of Anna Shepherd (artist's niece).

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