Archie Sutter Watt RSW was one of Dumfries & Galloway’s best loved artists, known to many for his Galloway landscapes and still-life paintings. He lived and worked in his studio in Kirkgunzeon near Dalbeattie for over 55 years, before his death in 2005, at the age of 90. Archie’s good humour, pedagogical nature and wry wit was unique, and is sorely missed by all those who had the pleasure and privilege to know him.
After service in the Second World War, Archie Sutter Watt studied at the Glasgow and Edinburgh School of Art, before relocating to Dumfries & Galloway to take up a teaching post, intending it to be a pleasant short stay for himself and his wife, Morag. He often remarked that he had never intended to remain in Galloway, but somehow the place just “got into his blood”, and the couple found themselves happy to make it their home.
A stalwart of the local community, he was instrumental in establishing the annual D&G Arts Festival and Stewartry Art Society, and despite his heavy teaching workload, he continued to create his own work, exhibiting both locally and around the country. He was made a full member of The Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour RSW in 1966, an achievement he was rightly proud of.
At a time in his life when many would have retired, Archie’s dedication to his art was unwavering, and his drive to try new challenges and undertake new exhibitions was undaunted by his failing health. He was delighted to be asked to stage a major retrospective at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries to mark his 85th year, and he continued to stage his annual Festival Studio exhibition in Kirkgunzeon until 2005.
In 2004, he acquired a new printing press to replace his converted mangle, which he had used for years to edition his drypoint prints. He was keen to see the difference a ‘real’ engineered press, and the latest non-toxic techniques would make to his print making. In early 2005 he was still working on a series of new graphic works, which were printed from Archie’s plates by his friend & Printmaker, Hugh Bryden, and shown as Archie had planned as part of the Arts Festival in 2005.
In Following his 90th birthday and just prior to his death, Archie spoke to his family and friends about leaving some legacy to the Dumfries & Galloway community that he had loved and in which he had lived, taught and painted for 60 wonderful years.
In honour of his contribution to Scottish Art and Education, the Archie Sutter Watt R.S.W Trust Fund was set up soon after his death. The Trust is now an officially registered charity with the dual aims of promoting arts projects, especially those involving watercolour painting, in South West Scotland. It is also intended to encourage artists to work and teach in this community so that the wider population can have greater access to, and appreciation of, the arts.
In keeping with what the Trustees believe would have been Archie’s wishes, the inaugural awards were three new printing presses for local secondary schools. The presses and start-up materials were supplied in time for the new school year in 2007, with the intention of encouraging young artists to develop their skills. More recently, The Trust has contributed three prizes to local schools participating in the Young Art Scotland Exhibition.
Archie’s family decided that his extensive number of unsold works should be formed into a proper collection and some of them sold periodically to fund awards in support of these aims. Since 2005, several successful exhibitions have raised nearly £30,000, which the Trustees feel, should allow meaningful awards each year. The proceeds from the exhibitions held at The Whitehouse Gallery over the past few years have served the same purpose.