1921 – 2004
Stuart Beaty was born in 1921 in Ayrshire, and from 1927-40 had his early education at Ardrossan Academy, where he displayed an early aptitude for the expressive arts, winning the Graham Prize for Art.
The Scottish Artist Tom Gilfillan was a neighbour during these years, and Stuart would often declare his ambition was to be an artist ‘like Tom’.
As a pupil in the senior school, Stuart was fortunate enough to see performances by the Marionette Theatre of Munich Artists. Astonished by their quality and sophistication, he began making wooden marionettes, and received a commission to make three marionettes for the Schools Inspectorate. Through carving puppets, he discovered an interest in sculpture which may well have influenced his future career.
Stuart spent the war years in the RAF on the engineering side, and served two years in India and Burma, where he was greatly influenced by Indian stone and wood carving.
In September 1946, de-mobbed and back in Scotland he attended Glasgow School of Art, where he studied modelling under Benno Schotz RSA, and carving with Tom Whalen RSA. Moira was also a student of drawing and painting at Glasgow at this time. The two met, later to marry.
Stuart’s interest in puppetry had not diminished and he helped to establish the Art School Marionette Theatre. He toured with a student puppet theatre and directed the Glasgow Puppet Guild in a performance at Kelvingrove Art Gallery with music by players from the Scottish Orchestra.
He graduated from the Art School in 1950 and was also awarded the Carnegie Travelling Scholarship by the Royal Scottish Academy. This offered a unique opportunity to spend six months in Mexico, living with a Mexican family, studying pre-Columbian sculpture. En route to Mexico, Stuart met with Canadian Film Director Ed Fitzgerald with a view to the production of puppet films. It was not, however, the film industry but the designs of knitwear fashions that for the best part of the next 25 years was to occupy Stuart’s attentions.
Back in the UK in 1951, he studied knitwear design and joined Pringle of Scotland as a designer, eventually being appointed to the Board as Design Director. This involved a move to Hawick in the Borders. Although this was a busy time for Stuart, he continued to make and show sculpture and to accept commissions.
In 1952 Stuart and Moira were married and honeymooned in Kirkcudbright. The couple painted outside their two week stay and were occasionally counselled by the townspeople. A nine year old assured Moira that she would get a better result if she used a bigger brush and an elderly gentleman, having first asked if he could have a look at what they were doing, swallowed hard and said ‘Ah well! It keeps you in the open air!’ Their first visit to the region that was much later to become home, had not passed unnoticed.
In 1955 the couple’s daughter Ann was born. It was when Ann was ten that the family moved to Scaurend, Roberton on the Borthwick Water. Ann grew up being inspired by her parent’s, and would often sit under the table copying Stuart’s every move as he worked. Dad would give her and mum and private puppet shows with the wooden spoon, the watering can, the toilet brush and whatever came to hand becoming puppets in his hands. Ann was to follow in her parents’ footsteps, attending the GSA to become a painter, and latterly a teacher.
In 1974, Stuart retired from Pringle and for a time worked as an administrator with the Demarco Gallery. Stuart was able to focus on sculpture at this time, working in bronze, in an amazing diversity of hardwoods as well as in other mixed media including papier mache finished with patination. He was known for his humour, playing on puns when titling the work. By way of example, Instead of ‘ship in a bottle’, a sculpture held at the Tate Gallery was named ‘sheep in a bottle’.
In 1989 Stuart and Moira moved to their converted barn home in the grounds of Barnbarroch House, just outside Dalbeattie. Here were spent years of rich productivity for both artists. Over the last three decades, Stuart took part in solo exhibitions in both the Henderson and Open Eye Galleries in Edinburgh, as well as mixed exhibitions at the RSA, RGI and The DeMarco Gallery, as well as Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries. Stuart was also involved in an exhibition called ‘Three Galloway Artists’ with Moira and fellow artist and family friend John Halliday, held at the Parish Church Hall in Kirkcudbright in 2004. This was to be Stuart’s last exhibition, as he died later that year.
Stuart’s sculpture can be found in many private and public collections.