Ramsay, Gilbert A

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Ramsay, Gilbert A

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Gilbert Anderson Ramsay was born on the 7th June, 1880 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, one of 5 children of Catherine and Gilbart A Ramsay, a joiner and builder. He attended The Glasgow School of Art as a student in architecture from 1896 to 1901, while working first as a joiner in Greenock and then as an architect in Kilmalcolm. In 1902, Ramsay exhibited a painting at the Glasgow Institute of Fine Art.

During the following seven years, Ramsay moved from Glasgow to London and lived at Toynbee Hall, a pioneering University settlement founded by Samuel and Henrietta Barnett. The settlement was named after Arnold Toynbee, an advocate of education for the working class and the reduction of the division between classes. Here, students and intellectuals lived alongside members of the working class in order to better their lives and reduce class differences. At Toynbee, Ramsay is said to have been instrumental in the Edwardian decorative scheme of the interiors. The Barnetts also established the renowned Whitechapel Gallery, of which Ramsay became director in 1911. He remained until 1914, and is noted for putting on the exhibition 20th Century Art: A Review of Modern Movements from May to June of his final year as director. The exhibition garnered attention, with some cubist and futurist pieces raising alarm. Henrietta Barnett herself wrote to Ramsay and asked "not to get too many examples of the extreme thought of this century, for we must never forget that the Whitechapel Gallery is intended for Whitechapel people, who have to be delicately led and will not understand the Post-Impressionist or Futuristic methods of seeing or representing things." Painters like Bomberg, Nevinson and Wyndham Lewis were among those showcased.

While the exhibition was still open, Ramsay was appointed director of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries, returning from London to fill the post and becoming a lay member of the Glasgow Art Club. In October of that same year, he joined either the 17th or the 6th battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. He was deployed to Gallipoli, Turkey in May of 1915 and was killed in action on the 12th of July at Dardanelles. His colleagues and friends from Toynbee hall were devastated at the news. His obituary in the Toynbee Record read, "He was struck by a shell, and instantly killed. So died, in his thirty-sixth year, childless and unmarried, one of the most gifted, and surely one of the most lovable of Toynbee men." He is commemorated at the Helles Memorial to the Missing of the Gallipoli campaign in Dardanelles. His name is also on the Glasgow Art Club's roll of honour.

Gilbert Anderson Ramsay is commemorated on The Glasgow School of Art's World War One Roll of Honour.

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Sources: Ancestry: http://www.ancestry.co.uk; Glasgow Art Club Newsletter, Autumn 2009: http://goo.gl/03KDDu; World War Zoo Gardener: https://goo.gl/rYQhhH; Lucinda Matthews-Jones, Historian Victorianist and Lecturer: http://goo.gl/vXRR2d; The Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture by J.M. McEwan; London, Modernism and 1914 by Michael J K Walsh.

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