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William Crosbie (1915-1999): Navigating Artistic Odyssey


Art, as an expression of the human experience, often takes us on a profound journey through the creative landscapes of the mind. For Scottish artist William Crosbie (1915-1999), this journey was guided by the mentorship of Fernand Léger, resulting in a collection of artworks that can only be described as a surrealistic odyssey.


"Any attempt to make a personal statement has to pay attention not to produce something which negates a perfectly good principle of thought, design or structure, which can so easily be done if one has a state of mind which says I have no obligation to tradition. You should be able to be a child of the age but not at the expense of what tradition has to offer."


Crosbie's journey begins in a unique setting. Born to Scottish parents in Hankow, China, his roots spanned across cultures.


The family's return to Glasgow in 1926 marked a pivotal chapter, leading him to the halls of the Glasgow Academy and subsequently to the prestigious Glasgow School of Art in 1932.


Graduating in 1935, he earned the Haldane Travelling Scholarship—an opportunity that beckoned him to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.


His Parisian chapter unfolded within the cosy confines of a garret in Montparnasse, specifically at Rue de la Grande Chaumière. A significant personal milestone awaited him there: an entrance into Fernand Léger's studio, earned through rigorous examination, which he labelled as 'one of his proudest experiences'.


Léger's pedagogical approach gave students the liberty of self-development, with a theme serving as a starting point for the artists to develop from. In hindsight, Crosbie recognised Léger's influence in nurturing his appreciation of structure, order, and equilibrium with painting and buildings.


With the conclusion of his scholarship, Crosbie received a job invitation to with the Archaeological Institute's expedition, tasked with preserving the unearthed Temple of the Bulls and Temple of Sakhara in Egypt. Crosbie was asked to replicate intricate friezes on temple walls.

Returning to Glasgow in 1939, Crosbie established his creative haven at 12 Ruskin Lane—a space originally designed for fellow Scottish artist Sir D.Y. Cameron. This became a hub for what Crosbie described as a "local renaissance," which included the likes of John Duncan Fergusson, James Bridie, and Basil Spence. Polish painter Jankel Adler also showed up regularly.


1947 marked Crosbie's introduction to the London art scene, as he showcased his paintings at the Reid and Lefevre gallery in a collaborative exhibition alongside John Armstrong.


Crosbie's link with architect Basil Spence presented a series of important mural commissions. These included pieces for the Britain Can Make It exhibition in 1946 and the 1951 Festival of Britain.


William Crosbie's canvases stand as testaments to the profound impact of mentorship, dedication, and an unyielding commitment to the artistic voyage.


We are proud to display one of Crosbie's pieces - 9am in the Tea House.


24" x 20"

Oil on Board

Provenance: Private Collection

Price: £9,500



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