Obituary: Ian Fleming
Tuesday 09 August 1994
IAN FLEMING was a notable artist and engraver and played an important role in the Scottish art world. He was a lecturer at Glasgow School of Art for many years and then successively Warden of Patrick Allen-Fraser Art College at Hospitalfield and Principal of Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen.
He was born in Glasgow, in 1906, and his budding talent for drawing beame evident in his early schooldays. He never had any doubt about his future vocation as an artist. While studying at Glasgow School of Art in the Twenties, developing his power as a painter, he discovered the lure of etching and engraving. In this, his career paralleled that of his contemporary James McIntosh Patrick, who also subsequently found his first reputation as an etcher.
On achieving his Diploma, Fleming became a member of the painting staff at Glasgow, and there painted the portrait of the two Roberts, Colquhoun and McBryde, his students who were to become the Scots contingent of the wartime Neo-Romantics. When hostilities started in 1939, Fleming served as a reserve policeman and recorded his experience of the Glasgow Blitz in a memorable series of prints.
In 1941, he joined up as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Pioneer Corps. On leave in 1943, he married one of his former students, Cath Weetch, who became his lifelong companion. 1944 took him to Normandy, on through the Low Countries, across the Rhine and into Germany, his drawing materials always at hand.
Demobbed in 1946, with the rank of Acting Major, he returned to Glasgow and resumed his position at the School of Art. In 1948 he left to succeed James Cowie as Warden of the Patrick Allan-
Fraser College of Art at Hospitalfield, Angus, a Scottish Baronial pile built on an ancient monastic foundation, an idyllic place for his wife and young family. Arbroath nearby was to be his inspiration for a series of paintings in which he celebrated in muted and singing colour the forms and texture of fish-curing yards, sea wall and foreshore, works by which he is perhaps most widely known.
In 1954, he moved to Aberdeen, as Principal of Gray's School of Art. This was a time when a Head could still combine administration with the practice of art, long before the avalanche of paper was to hit the higher institutions. Fleming's tenure of office coincided with a gradual expansion in student numbers, necessitating in 1967 a flitting from Schoolhill to wooded Garthdee, to a fine new building in which the architect Michael Shewan pays homage in steel and glass to the genius of Mies van der Rohe.
Ian Fleming was a member of several exhibiting societies, and became the Royal Scottish Academy's longest established member. He was elected ARSA in 1947, and RSA in 1956. Shortly after arriving in Aberdeen he played the key role in the revival of the Aberdeen Artists' Society, which had lain moribund since 1939. Its annual exhibition has since flourished as a leading event in Aberdeen Art Gallery's calendar. Fleming's public spirit found expression, too, in his Rotarian activities and as local chairman of the Saltire Society. After retiring in 1971 he became the enthusiastic Founder and Chairman of Artspace and Peacock Printmakers, and gave his time generously in support of the Cyrenians.
It was indicative of the esteem in which Fleming was held, not only locally but throughout Scotland, that he should have been awarded an honorary LLD by Aberdeen University and later made an honorary Doctor of Arts of the new Robert Gordon University of which Gray's School of Art is a component part.
Ian Fleming was an avuncular presence, invariably supportive of the up-and-coming, with a fund of knowledge, anecdote and good sense delivered as incisive advice when needed.
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