Obituary: Ian Macdonald, teacher, art historian, painter and authority on Mackintosh

Died: February 16, 2021.

IAN Macdonald, D.A, B.A, died peacefully at his home on Glasgow’s Southside earlier this year, with his wife Marjorie and his five daughters at his side. Two sons, Euan and Fergus, joined them virtually as they bade a fond farewell.

It was the manner of death Ian would have wished for: surrounded by love and family, his paintings on the walls, his books on the shelves.

He had been a teacher with a lifelong love of art. As a young man he had graduated from Glasgow School of Art, and his impact on the Glasgow art scene went firmly in the Classical direction, none more so than in his long involvement with the works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Ian had instigated the re-evaluation of the Mackintosh furniture that had been languishing in an Art School basement in the 1960s, and he meticulously constructed furnishings for the Mackintosh House, now part of the Hunterian Museum.

He also produced stencils for wall decorations which are currently used in the Hill House, at Helensburgh.

When Ian completed his thesis on Mackintosh he was ahead of the resurgence in favour of the Modern Style.

He had been born in Glasgow in June 1933, the eldest of eight children for Elizabeth and John Macdonald. The family was evacuated to Prestwick during the war, and his time there left him with fond memories of a life by the sea.

As a teenager he contracted tuberculosis so, while highly capable, he missed out on completing his studies. Instead, he became a commercial printer, until encouraged to apply to the School of Art.

On graduation he embarked on a teaching career, spending most of his career at Bellarmine Secondary School, in Pollok. With his prodigious capacity for hard work, he combined family life and teaching with part-time study for an honours degree in the History of Art through the University of London.

Having himself been raised nearby, he had a close affinity with his pupils at this busy working-class comprehensive school.

His strong sense of social justice was informed and directed by what he saw of the struggles faced by so many of them. A refined, educated and elegant man who was proud of his roots, he was a fierce critic of snobs and of snobbery.

He had a palpable grasp of the creative spirit which stemmed from his deep love of the history of art.

His familiarity with all things art brought a powerful mind to bear on the society in which he lived. It tempered his view of the world, allowing him to see the truth.

A lover also of music, he delighted in the success of the Bellarmine’s famous Music School. He was highly regarded by colleagues and a well-loved art, religious education and guidance teacher.

Retirement as a teacher in 1990 allowed Ian to focus on his tutoring, particularly his lectures and study tours in the History of Art, run for 38 years via Glasgow University’s Adult Education department.

He was inspiringly passionate about the history of art, and his lectures were legendary for their breadth of knowledge, academic rigour and the weave of history, culture, theology, art and politics.

If you were on a tour led by Ian, you needed stamina and stout shoes. He delighted, latterly, in leading tours for all his children and grand-children to Florence and then to Venice. Sadly, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to his plans for the Macdonald invasion of Rome last year.

The Renaissance was his pièce de résistance. What Ian did not know about the Venetian Baroque could be written on the back of a postage stamp.

In 1959, Ian had met his wife, Philomena Mone, and they married the following year at Holy Cross Church, Crosshill, in Glasgow. Devoted to Philomena, he was, as he always insisted, a proud father of eight children – a son, Alastair, having died in infancy.

His faith mattered to Ian; he was an active church worker in all three Catholic parishes where he lived, and his life mirrored his firm affirmation of the Resurrection.

Ian returned to painting after Philomena died in 2000, after a long battle with motor neurone disease. He proved a gifted and committed artist whose works captured individuality and created a sense of drama, perhaps seen best in his paintings of Scotland.

Latterly, Ian established the popular Maxwell Painting Group based at Pollokshields Burgh Hall, inspiring artists around him with his unstoppable enthusiasm while producing some of his finest paintings.

He was also blessed to meet someone with whom he shared a new lease on life. Given the chance of a wonderful second act with his beloved Marjorie, Ian seized on that chance for fulfilment and happiness, and they were married in 2009.

Ian leaves a rich artistic legacy as an artist and an academic. He enriched many lives but, if asked, he always would locate his legacy where he was happiest: midst the love of his family and his delight in being father of eight children and a grand-father of fourteen.

He is dearly missed by them and by many others. The world is indeed a poorer place without him.

Marie Macdonald

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992