Christopher Wood RSW
/ smith    




W Gordon Smith died in August 1996.

These are some extracts from his memorial in The Scotland on Sunday - August 18, 1996

Great friend of the arts

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W Gordon Smith, the visual art critic and giant of the Scottish theatre, died this week aged 67. Here three of his closest friends, the artists John Bellany and Sandy Moffat, and the actor Russell Hunter, remember him and pay tribute to his contribution to Scottish Culture

W Gordon Smith had a huge creative flow combined with a generosity of spirit. He had that wonderful knack of spotting the merit in an artist's outpourings and never gloated over their weaknesses. Gordon was also that rare type of human being - a life enhancer.

He was a great raconteur and could hold a dinner table or a saloon bar enthralled for hours with his seemingly endless anecdotes, ranging from outrageous stories of Edinburgh worthies to insights into literary and artistic poseurs with all their vacuous claims described with his own brand of sardonic wit.

He was a man who adored living in his home city of Edinburgh. It was his fountainhead of joys and sorrows and was at the core of most of his artistic output. Gordon Knew everybody from the highest judges and politicians in the land to the Newhaven fish porters, as well as the entire artistic set of Scotland.

His love of the visual arts and artists was boundless and his hallmark was encouragement. He never ceased to visit exhibitions - several every week of his life - spotting a bit of mediocrity here, a bright young spark there, and an old man of renown still flourishing somewhere else. His energy was legendary - he has recently written three hefty books on WG Gillies, Sir Robin Philipson and latterly David Donaldson*. He was lavish in his praise and support but was nobody's fool when it came to serious criticism.

Gordon was born in Edinburgh and did six years of hard graft or apprenticeship as a young journalist and his formative years, which were to equip him for a rich and varied intellectual life, had begun. He blossomed when he joined the staff of the BBC as a radio producer in the late fifties. His erudition, both artistic and literary, was exemplary and he could quote from Plato to Sydney Goodsir Smith to Keats in one sentence with remarkable insight, but without the pomposity of a non-practising "pen-pusher" - he was a doer!

John Bellany

Gordon was a pioneer of televised arts programmes in Scotland and single-handedly he created a format which allowed the cultural scene access to the small screen. This was no easy task and given the trivial nature of today's TV arts offerings, Gordon's methods - always granting the individual artist space to speak for him/herself - seem so simple and so right. He knew Scotland inside out. At the heart of most of his plays is an examination of the Scottish psyche, and this Knowledge, underpinned by a formidable erudition and a real understanding of how different forms of artistic expression (poetry, painting, film, music, etc) interconnect gave his critical writing a unique authority.

Sandy Moffat

An admirer of painters, sculptors, potters, woodcarvers, silver and goldsmiths, Phoebe A Traquair, Bill Gigg, Jean Muir, Murial Spark, R L Stevenson, Burns, Scott, musicians and yet, curiously, never envious.

A graceful man, made angry by gracelessness in any form, he had a fine daft streak in him. A few years ago, with the help of one of his favourite ceramic artists, Margery Clinton*, he made a ceramic sporran! Oh the joy of putting a few 10p pieces inside and then getting up for an eightsome reel. Oh the possible dangers!

Among Gordon's published works my favourite is his first. This Is My Country. I think it the compulsory bedside book for every Scot and anyone who wants to understand the Scot.

Russel Hunter


W G Gillies - A very still life

W Gordon Smith

Published by Atelier Books
ISBN : 1 873830 00 9

Robin Philipson - A Biography

W Gordon Smith

Published by Atelier Books
ISBN : 1873-830-033

*On 18 May 2005. Margery Clinton, ceramic artist and painter died. In the words of the obituary in the Scotsman "the Art world has lost a valuable contributor" Born on 20 September 1931 she was 73. Part of the Young Glasgow Group when a student in 1958, she established her pottery in Newton Port, Haddington (1975-1995) moving to Dunbar where she was located until her death. She exhibited widely, including at the Tate, V and A, Royal Museum of Scotland and elsewhere. Published the standard book of lustre glazes. She will be sadly missed.